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    April 09, 2007

    West Indies - South Africa Preview

    On Tuesday, the West Indies will take on South Africa in Grenada in what may very well be a do-or-die match. South Africa, the West Indies and England are locked in a three way tussle for the fourth semi final spot behind leaders Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. While a loss will not mathematically eliminate either side, the winner will be in a good position to grab that fourth semi final spot. Both teams will come into the match with question marks surrounding them. The West Indies will be coming off three thumping defeats, while South Africa will be coming off possibly their most embarrassing loss in ODIs, a mauling at the hands of the lowly rated, but talented Bangladeshi team.

    When the West Indies Bat.

    Burning questions have been asked about the leadership of West Indies cricket, but truth be told, the Windies' failures at this World Cup are in large part due to the continued run of poor form by several top order batsmen. To illustrate the struggles, Chris Gayle (116 runs) has scored less runs in 6 games than the long departed Dutch batsman Ryan ten Doeschate's 128 in 3 innings. Marlon Samuels' total of 134 in 6 innings is only marginally better than ten Doeschate's. Chanderpaul (45.4) and Lara (49.25) lead the Windies' batting averages thus far, but Chanderpaul's average is built around 2 good knocks (102n.o. and 76) that mask 4 failures, while Lara hasn't gone on to make a century as yet. Dwayne Smith continues to stake a claim to his side based on his potential rather than actual accomplishments. Since blasting 32 against Pakistan in the opening match, he has managed only 17 runs since, and will be very fortunate to retain hi place in the side. Ramnaresh Sarwan (31.5 average) and Dwayne Bravo (25.25 average) have failed to make even a half century. In fact, through 6 matches the West Indies have collectively compiled only 4 half centuries and the lone Chanderpaul ton against Ireland.

    South Africa face tough decisions when it comes to their lineup. Opening bowlers Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini have combined to take only 8 wickets in the World Cup so far. While Pollock has been steady, except for his demolition by Australia, Ntini has been far less convincing, going for 61 against Bangladesh where it was noticeable that he struggled with landing the ball in the spots that he wanted. He was especially ineffective in the last 10 overs against Mohammad Ashraful and Mashrafe Mortaza. Andre Nel played his second CWC 2007 match against Bangladesh and returned the figures of 5/45, his best ever ODI performance. A place will have to be found for the rested Andrew Hall, South Africa's best death bowler, who was sorely missed against Ashraful and Bangladesh. Hall has perfected death bowling in that he bowls full deliveries wide of offstump that batsmen have a hard time slogging. The South Africans won't want to leave out Charl Langeveldt as he is their leading wicket taker in this tournament and has been a tormentor of the Windies in the past. All rounder Justin Kemp has largely been ineffective with the ball and was treated with contempt by the Bangladeshis. His poor form with the bat as well could allow for Nel to take his place. A more surprising decision by the South Africans would be to include Nel for Ntini, but either way, Nel will probably be in the lineup.

    When South Africa Bats.

    South Africa's vaunted batting lineup somehow doesn't look as deep as it once did. Jacques Kallis is having a fantastic tournament in averaging 120. Captain Graeme Smith has made as many half centuries by himself (4) as the entire West Indian team. Herschelle Gibbs remains a dynamic player, highlighted by his 6 sixes against Holland. However he is an injury concern for the South Africans having re-injured his calf while fielding against Bangladesh. He came at number 7 against Bangladesh and batted with a runner throughout. If he is not fit enough to take the field, then that will be a severe blow to the South Africans as besides Kallis and Smith, the batting has largely failed to fire. AB de Villiers has been all or nothing, his pair of half centuries being surrounded by three ducks and a 15. Ashwell Prince has spent precious little time in the middle only compiling 70 runs so far in the tournament. Kemp has struggled even more with his bat than with the ball and will be extremely fortunate to retain his place in the XI. Mark Boucher scored 75n.o against the hapless Dutch, but has only managed 34 in 3 other innings, while allrounder Pollock has only managed to total 37 in 4 innings. With so many question marks in the batting lineup, Kallis and Smith are key and if the Windies can get their wickets cheaply, as Bangladesh did, then South Africa could struggle to post a competitive score.

    Daren Powell has been the player of the tournament so far for the West Indies, taking 11 wickets for less than 20 runs a piece. He has also proved to be a workhorse as he has bowled the most overs (55) of any bowler in the World Cup so far. He has striked early in every match. Partnering Powell will be Jerome Taylor who has not been as successful with the ball, taking only 4 wickets. He and Powell will have to take early wickets against South Africa as the Windies bowling after the opening bowlers lacks any teeth. Collymore, Bradshaw, Smith, Gayle and Samuels have not demonstrated the ability to take wickets regularly in the middle overs. Dwayne Bravo has taken 8 wickets so far, but we think that he is being used in a role that he is not suited for. Rather than being used as a wicket taking option during overs 20 - 40, Bravo has been used as a death bowler, when statistics show that he was one of the worst bowlers during the last 10 overs of a match for 2006. Against Sri Lanka, while going at over 7 runs an over, he was used to bowl the final overs while Jerome Taylor, who had figures of 8 overs for 32 runs at that point was overlooked. Bravo went for 14 runs during the final over.

    Outlook: This match features two teams that must be in near crisis mode. The stakes will be high, as a South Africa controls their own destiny in that 3 straight wins for them will seal a semi final spot. Three straight wins is what the Windies will need also, but will need to improve their net run rate as a tie with South Africa for 4th could be in the cards if the Windies win out. Both teams have question marks hovering about them and the match should come down to whoever wants the win more. That may not auger so well for the Windies, as their lackadaisical performance in the Super Eights and especially against Sri Lanka have left many West Indians, including former great Lance Gibbs, questioning their motivation.

    (Cross Posted from Rain, No Play)

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    Thus spake Sean @ 10:39 AM |
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    2 sledge(s):

    Thanks for an excellent preview!

    I am thinking Nel got himself in the squad, but he will most likely be lifting Kemp, and not Ntini from the squad. Kemp has had a dismal performance this WC, and a drop is warranted.

    I'm looking forward to the game, and apologies for not posting on the Bangladesh game, but I was away on easter, and did not see it at all.

    By Blogger Reenen (10-Apr-2007, 3:49:00 PM)  

    reenen - I'm struggling to understand Kemp's presence. He doesn't bowl often and bats far too low down!

    By Blogger Jagadish (11-Apr-2007, 11:27:00 AM)  

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