CAPE TOWN—A reinforced West Indies outfit takes on South Africa, without some of its leading players, in the first of a three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series at Newlands today.
“It’s a format that we have done well in and we are looking to continue in that way. We are very confident,” declared captain Darren Sammy.
“We have won a world cup three years ago and we believe we have some of the best players in the world in that format. We have shown how well we can play.”
West Indies, who are without the ICC’s No 1 and No 2-ranked T20 bowlers, Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine, are packing more fire-power than they did when they lost to the South Africans two-nil in the three-test series which concluded this week.
Chris Gayle’s return is expected to be a massive boost while Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons will bolster a batting line-up that struggled against Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Vernon Philander in the Test series.
“Are you ready for me?” Gayle asked the media as he walked past journalists at the end of the third Test.
He missed the Test series with a back injury but was previously playing for a South African franchise, the Lions, in the local T20 tournament, scoring the competition’s first hundred and finishing the fifth-highest run scorer overall.
“Winning the series will be the most important thing,” declared allrounder Andre Russell who, like Sammy and 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.
“Contributing to the team and winning the series will mean a lot more to me than getting the man of the series. We just have to be positive and come against the proteas with fire.”
West Indies, on paper, look the better side, with the likes of Gayle, Simmons, Pollard, Russell, and Sammy being renowned the world over for their prowess in the 20-over format.
South Africa, however, will be without the services of AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel Vernon Philander and Steyn, their best bowler.
The Proteas will rely heavily on skipper Faf du Plessis who has described West Indies as “the dominant T20 team in the world at the moment.”
David Miller is expected to provide some fireworks in a batting order that looks weak while their pace attack will be led by Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell, and Marchant de Lange.
“Playing in the ram slam was a good experience and I surely had some good time playing on these wickets,” said Russell, who believes he has a key role to play in the team.
“So I just hope I can contribute big for the team bowling and batting on these types of wickets because I was here a month ago so I am accustomed to the conditions.”
West Indies and South Africa have not met in T20 cricket since 2010 and the visitors have only won one of their six encounters in the shortest format, at Port Elizabeth back in 2007.
“Here in Cape town I have seen a lot of ads about protefire so I guess Cape Town will be blazing and somebody will come out victorious and hopefully that is the maroon fire,” said Sammy.
“It will be a difficult 11 to pick but whatever 11 we put out will go out and be very competitive against South Africa”.
First ball is 6 pm (12 noon eastern Caribbean Time/11 am Jamaica Time).
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Morne van Wyk (wk), Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, Charl Langeveldt, Aaron Phangiso, Wayne Parnell, Marchant de Lange, David Wiese, Farhaan Behardien, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Justin Ontong.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (c), Denesh Ramdin (wk), Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Andre Fletcher, Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Sheldon Cottrell, Ashley Nurse, Jason Holder, Lendl Simmons, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith, Andre Russell.