TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THEY dawdled to defeat against West Indies and found brilliance to beat Australia. Will the real SA team in the triseries in the Caribbean please get up, stand up?
SA will get the chance to do so on Saturday when they meet the Aussies again at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts, a stage fit for compelling drama.
It was at this ground where Herschelle Gibbs smashed every delivery of an over by Dutch leg spinner Daan van Bunge for six in a 2007 World Cup match.
It was also here, in the same tournament, that SA roared to 184/1 in the 26th over in search of 378 to beat the Aussies – and were then dismissed for 294.
Having had to work hard to overcome the miserly conditions in Providence in Guyana, where the first three matches of the triseries were staged, the players should find Warner Park as fresh as the air of the nearby Caribbean.
“Apparently St Kitts and Barbados (where the triseries goes after the St Kitts leg) offer a bit more pace and bounce – even and through bounce,” Farhaan Behardien said after grafting hard for his vital 62 against Australia on Tuesday.
In Providence on Friday, SA were dismissed for 188 and beaten by four wickets by a West Indies team lacking their big guns. On Sunday, Australia put the same Windies XI to the sword, bowling them out for 116 and consigning the target to history inside 26 overs. Two days later against the Aussies, SA totalled just one run more than they had against the West Indians – and won by 47 runs.
Logic? Nowhere to be found. But it won’t have many places to hide on St Kitts, a dab of an island 168 square metres small, 29 kilometres long and an average of 8 kilometres wide.
So it makes sense that Warner Park’s playing area should veer close to the minimum dimensions for an international ground.
Which helps explain why, in the 14 one-day internationals played there, the team batting first have reached 300 six times and been dismissed only three times. The average total in the first innings is 282.
And it’s a good idea to bat first: just four of those 14 games have been won by the chasing side.
How does Warner Park behave after dark? Only one day/night ODI has been played here but the script was followed.
Denesh Ramdin and Kieron Pollard each racked up centuries in the Windies’ total of 338/7. Bangladesh replied with 247/8.
So SA will have to come out with bats blazing, probably regardless of whether they take guard first or second.
They pulled off something close to a miracle by dismissing Australia for 142 in Guyana, but that kind of lightning doesn’t strike twice – especially given significantly improved batting conditions.
That means the bowlers are probably going to be asked to deliver a performance as classy as their Guyana get-out-of-jail number.
“There was some very good bowling and you have got to give credit on a wicket that suited bowling,” Aaron Finch said after Tuesday’s game. “I thought that they executed excellently in the first 10 overs. That pulled them well ahead of the game.”
Wayne Parnell and Kagiso Rabada earned that credit with the new ball. But will they get the chance to do so on Saturday, what with Morne Morkel having warmed the bench for the first two matches?
Then there’s the freshest face in SA’s attack, that of left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who on his debut on Tuesday bowled like a man born to play at this level and deserved better than his nevertheless respectable return of 1/36 from eight overs.
But Shamsi is behind Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso in the slow bowler’s queue and it’s difficult to imagine SA picking all three again, like they did against the Aussies.
The batting line-up will also need tinkering in the wake of Rilee Rossouw being invalided out of the tournament with a dislocated shoulder. His replacement, Dean Elgar, will have joined the squad by Saturday.
Who knows, then, just what the real SA team will look like on Saturday. Whoever they are, they need to get up, stand up.