It may not seem like South Africa have much more to prove before they head off to the World Cup after their blistering display at the Wanderers but there is. A series is on the line and can be won with two matches to spare in East London, which will give South Africa some breathing space to either experiment or search for consistency before the big tournament.
West Indies will not want to make it as simple as that for the hosts. After not being able to do much more than admire AB de Villiers on Sunday, they have a contest to crawl back into. They need more in all departments, starting with the x-factor where Chris Gayle’s flagging form will be a concern.
Gayle has not scored an ODI century in 14 matches games, dating back to June 2013, and has only managed one fifty in that time. He needs to summon some of his 20-over form while his team-mates need a greater commitment to forming partnerships, which may only come with some circumspection.
Conditions should suit that approach with the pace of the game expected to be slower than was experienced in Johannesburg. That will also allow the bowlers the room they need to find their lines and lengths, something West Indies have struggled with so far.
South Africa WWLLL (last five completed games most recent first)
West Indies LLLLW
In the spotlight
The glut of runs from the top three allowed South Africa to post their highest ODI total in Johannesburg but hid their middle order away from much-needed exposure. South Africa lost 5 for 34 between the 40th and 48th over in the first ODI and still look shaky at No.6 and 7. They will want to harden up before the World Cup.
Marlon Samuels has made throwing his wicket away a specialty in this series and the spotlight will be on him to bat with more responsibility as West Indies face a series defeat. That Samuels can get in, withstand short ball assaults and fired up pace and dictate terms against spinners is already known but whether he can stay remains to be seen.
Although Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell and Aaron Phangiso, who are in South Africa’s World Cup squad, have not had a chance to play in this series yet, the hosts are likely to stick to the same XI as they search for a series win before making any changes. That probably means AB de Villiers will keep wicket once more with no room for Morne van Wyk just yet.
South Africa (probable): 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Rilee Rossouw, 3 Faf du Plessis 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 David Miller, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
If Lendl Simmons is fit, West Indies may want to slot him into the batting line-up to bolster their offering. Simmons is part of the World Cup squad but is nursing a finger injury. The only other change West Indies could make will be to their seam department. Jerome Taylor may be given a rest after he was battered at the Bullring and Sheldon Cottrell given a chance.
West Indies (possible): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Lendl Simmons/Leon Johnson, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Jonathan Carter, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Jason Holder (capt), 10 Jerome Taylor/Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Sulieman Benn
Pitch and conditions
East London is much slower than Johannesburg in every way, including its cricket pitch. The surface is traditionally sluggish and the ball will be slow in coming on to the bat with be very little assistance for the quicks. “A different set of skills is required,” Hashim Amla said. Slower balls, cutters and spin will come into play on what is expected to be a busy day in the field. “The outfield is bigger and a bit slower,” Amla said. Whether they get a full match is in another question. Rain is forecast from 6pm, through the night which may hampered the second innings.
Stats and trivia
Buffalo Park has only hosted 20 ODIs in its history of which three have taken place in the last 10 years. That included one high-scoring game in which South Africa defended 311 against England, one low-scoring one, in which South Africa chased 153 against Zimbabwe, and one middle-of-the-road in which South Africa chased 237 against Sri Lanka.
Faf du Plessis needs another 108 to reach the 2,000 runs and Dale Steyn one wicket for 150
“Games like that don’t happen very often, maybe once or twice in your career. I don’t think we will be placing too much emotion on it. It’s a different mindset we come into with this game, knowing it will probably be a lot harder to bat, things might take a bit more time.”
Hashim Amla does not expect any records to be broken at Buffalo Park