After a Test series spent competing against each other and the elements and the drama of World Cup squad decisions, it is time for a bit of fun in this series. Three Twenty20s break the tension for the next six days and should provide some entertainment to a public thirsty for cricket.
West Indies are the only visitors to these shores in a curtailed summer, made shorter because of the World Cup, and so far they have almost been bystanders in the contest. They challenged South Africa only briefly in the Tests and will want to compete more convincingly in the format many think they were made to play.
It will help that four of the West Indies squad – Darren Sammy, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard – were playing in South Africa a little less than a month ago, in the domestic twenty-over tournament, and will be familiar with conditions. It may also help that South Africa believe West Indies are “the dominant T20 team in the world at the moment”, according to their captain Faf du Plessis.
In fact, West Indies are ranked No. 7, three below South Africa, but the hosts’ neglect of the shortest format recently may leave them exposed. South Africa are resting their core, with AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel given some time off and JP Duminy yet to fully recover from his knee injury. That leaves them with an experimental outfit from which they are hoping to identify talent for the future.
South Africa LLWLW
West Indies WLLWW
In the spotlight
With Quinton de Kock’s injury in the back of their minds South Africa’s opening pair will know that runs in an international – whatever the format – could put them in line for an emergency World Cup call-up. Morne van Wyk is certain to be one of the top two and would be an ideal fit to replace de Kock if needed because he also keeps wicket. Who his partner will be is less certain but if team management had World Cup plans in mind, they may go with Rilee Rossouw, who is the spare batsman in the 50-over squad.
“Are you ready for me?” Chris Gayle asked the media as he walked past the press conference venue at the end of the third Test. He should have directed the question to the opposition change room, who saw little more than a month ago how dangerous he can be. Gayle missed the Test series with a back injury but was previously playing for a South African franchise, the Lions, in the local T20 tournament. He hit the competition’s first hundred and finished as the fifth-highest run scorer overall and will no doubt want to pick up where he left off.
Being without their big names, leaves South Africa with an inexperienced batting line-up, propped up by the captain at No. 3, but provides opportunity for World Cup squad members like Farhaan Behardien and David Miller to find early form. Justin Ontong may also feature, as a replacement for JP Duminy, who is with the squad despite injury. Wayne Parnell will likely lead a young attack, which should see speedster Marchant de Lange alongside Under-19 World Cup winner Kagiso Rabada.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Morne van Wyk (wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks/Rilee Rossouw, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 Farhaan Behardien, 5 David Miller, 6 David Wiese/Justin Ontong, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 David Wiese, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Marchant de Lange, 11 Imran Tahir
Unlike South Africa, West Indies have their marquee men back for this series – although they are without the ICC’s No. 1 and No. 2-ranked T20 bowlers, Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine. Gayle, Pollard and Sammy will take up places in the starting XI.
West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Lendl Simmons, 4 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Andre Russell, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Sheldon Cottrell
Pitch and conditions
The Newlands surface may be on the green side but the pace and bounce should still aid run-scoring. The forecast is for a clear, balmy day, which will cool down a touch come the evening.
Stats and Trivia
These two teams have not met in T20 cricket since 2010
West Indies have only won one of their six encounters in the shortest format, at Port Elizabeth back in 2007
Morne van Wyk’s last international appearance came at the 2011 World Cup
Badree and Krishmar Santokie, missing for West Indies through injury, were the leading T20 wicket-takers in 2014
“Twenty20 is about getting new guys into international cricket and it’s a good opportunity for guys that have been in the squad for a while, like myself and JP, to SHARE what we have created as a culture with them so they can also grow as cricketers.”
Faf du Plessis says that, for now, South Africa are using the shortest format as a development exercise
“In T20 every ball is an event. The momentum of the game will shift every ball.”
Darren Sammy is expecting some big moments in the series