South Africa look to get World Cup campaign back on track against West Indies

Gayle at cricket training

South Africa will look to bounce back from their mauling at hands of India by defeating an increasingly confident West Indies at the SCG from 0330 GMT.

South Africa entered the World Cup as one of the favourites alongside co-hosts Australia and New Zealand and began well with a strong display against neighbours Zimbabwe. However, they were rocked by India and Shikhar Dhawan in their last match at the MCG as their customary strong suit of fast-bowling let them down. The last time they played the men from the Caribbean, however, should still be etched in their memory. They romped to a 4-1 series win at the start of this year, with the second ODI seeing them post an eye-watering 439 for two from their 50 overs.

West Indies, by contrast, are on the up after that series defeat and a first-round loss to Ireland threatened to represent the start of a new low for the game in the region. However, since then, a comfortable win over fellow strugglers Pakistan has been followed by a Chris Gayle-inspired win over Zimbabwe. Gayle, out of touch, for so long and victim of a slight by WICB chairman Dave Cameron on Twitter, finally found his best form and became the first man in the World Cup's history to hit a double hundred. He also became the first man in the game's history to complete the treble of hitting a Test triple hundred, an ODI double and a T20 hundred.

Both sides know that a win tomorrow will put them in a strong position to qualify as one of the top two teams from Pool B, while a loss will leave them battling for the final quarter-final place and a possible match-up against one of the hosts.

Strengths and weaknesses:

South Africa's strength is their pace bowling despite their poor showing against India. However, it is weakened for this game with Vernon Philander ruled out through injury. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will lead the attack and, on form, are probably the best in world cricket at present.

Traditionally, the Proteas have always been blessed with all-rounders, but a decision to drop Ryan McLaren from the 15-man squad has left them struggling to balance the side. Wayne Parnell was tried at number seven against India, but conceded 85 from nine overs, while Farhaan Behardien's bowling looked unimpressive in the first game against Zimbabwe. An additional problem is that talismanic captain AB de Villiers could face a ban for over-rate offences if the side err again in this tournament.

West Indies, again by contrast, have a plethora of all-rounders, all of whom are excellent in the field to boot. Jerome Taylor also proved himself to be an effective attack leader against Zimbabwe, while Gayle's return to form has helped ease concerns at the top of the order. That, though, remains, their biggest weakness. Gayle's opening partner Dwayne Smith is out of touch, while Jonathan Carter - replacement for the injured Darren Bravo - is unproven at this level.


Unusually for this World Cup, spin is likely to play just as big a role as seam on an SCG track that always has something in it for the slower bowlers, especially since it is getting a little worn towards the end of a long summer.  However, there should also be sideways movement on offer on what will sometimes be an overcast day. It will be warm, with temperatures peaking at around 27 degrees Celsius, but there will be a significant chance of a shower during the first part of the match.

Team news: 

As mentioned, South Africa are still mulling over their best combination; a fact that has been further complicated by a possible absence through injury of JP Duminy, who may have expected to play an increased role with the ball here. Kyle Abbott is almost certain to replace the injured Vernon Philander, but who will bat at six and seven remains open to debate.

Possible XI: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), David Miller, JP Duminy/Rilee Rossouw, Farhaan Behardien, Kyle Abbott, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

West Indies should be able to welcome back Sulieman Benn if he has recovered from the injury that caused him to miss the win over Zimbabwe. He will be a straight swap for fellow left-arm spinner Nikita Miller, and they will otherwise probably remain unchanged with Darren Bravo still injured and it increasingly likely that he will be replaced in the squad.

Probable XI: Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Jonathan Carter, Denesh Ramdin (wicket-keeper), Lendl Simmons, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell, Jason Holder (captain), Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn/Nikita Miller.

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