Preview of South Africa vs West Indies 2nd Test

South African cricketers would have struggled to celebrate New years eve, after being the first decent side the West Indians have beaten in seven years. The last side was England in 2000. If ever the squad need a motivator, the humiliation in Port Elizabeth can be reflected upon.

The openers have struggled, managing to only once to score above fifty in the opening partnership in 17 innings for 2007. They averaged a meagre 19.5. Their last five opening stands consist of 1, 8, 2, 1, and 4.

The Proteas have called up Neil McKenzie, a clear indication the selectors have realised the top order is indeed in tatters. This may have come as a surprise to the selectors however there are many supporters who have been tearing out their hair watching Gibbs and Smith lose their wickets like it didn’t matter, whilst hoping “The Rock” Jacques Kallis would rescue the side yet again.

South Africa might bring back Pollock, a decision which would make sense as the tail could always be bolstered and his unwavering accuracy with the ball could help if Gayle and co decide to play like it’s a one day match as was seen on occasions in the first test.

The West Indians have flown over Patrick Browne in case Ramdin has not recovered from a finger injury. Otherwise I expect the same side will face SA. South Africa will be looking to square the series and it should be another cracker of a game

South African Batting Averages

Just to put in perspective how average our players are, below are the averages for SA and AUS for the last 2 years

1. Gibbs – 24.38 avg
2. Smith – 31.81 avg
3. Amla – 37.69 avg
4. Kallis – 65.35 avg
5. Prince – 44.78 avg
6. De Villiers – 27.34 avg
7. Boucher – 28.32 avg

Hayden – 46.20 avg
Jaques – 83.50 avg
Ponting – 76.25 avg
Clarke – 74.90 avg
Symonds – 47.90 avg
Hussey – 78.76 avg
Gilchrist – 43.06 avg

Neil McKenzie recalled

Neil McKenzie has been called up to join a squad that was selcected for the first two tests. This is an indication that he will be playing, it would be pointless to add a 13th man to the sdide. The journalists in the know expect him to replace Gibbs and to open the innings.

Another great call from the selectors here, getting a man to open for his country when he traditionally comes in at 4. I guess they informed him he is only going in 5 overs earlier, as Gibbs and Smith are usually chilling in the pavilion by this stage!!!

I am very against shuffling AB de Villiers around yet again and thankfully I read somewhere so are the selectors. This is for two reasons: firstly he didn’t sparkle as an opener and secondly he is the heir to the gloves and must adapt to playing at 5 or 6 so he has some rest between keeping and batting.

I indicated before I would prefer to see Morne van Wyk there as he is a natural opener and has also been on the fringe for a few years now. Neil has proven himself in the domestic competition for the past few years and has the talent to be there, my biggest frustration with McKenzie was his predictability and lack of concentration. Often he used to get 60 odd runs before throwing his wicket away, generally to a sweep shot that wasn’t on. The experts out there say he has matured, if he has he may well be the answer to our middle order woes yet strangely he the to sort out the top order problems. I think its unfair to ask him to open, however he has got another chance against a side that has been less than ordinary for seven years, so hopefully he will take it.

One other question is what happened to Boeta Dippenaar?

West Indies Win 1st Test

The West Indies won the first test by 128 runs, on the 4th day. It was an unexpected display, a fairytale win and their first test victory in 2.5 years. The West Indians dominated the game from the word go, the only time they looked to be in trouble was in their dismal second innings. The damage had been done in the first and the measly 175 left SA with too much to chase with a malfunctioning top order.

The South African selectors are going to have to ask some serious questions about their batsman. Gibbs didn’t get off the mark and has been struggling in the test arena for the past few seasons, whilst Smith hasn’t been much better. Gibbs averaged 45.6 in the 04/05 season, 15.1 in 05/06, 26.9 in 06/07 and 21.9 in the current 07/08 season. Smith made 39.2 in 04/05, 31.4 for 05/06, 32.8 in 06/07 and 33 for the current season. These figures aren’t pleasing especially when you consider “the rock” of the side Jacques Kallis has averaged 67 in 04/05, 38.2 in 05/06 44.1 06/07 and 121.7 for the current season.

The South African commentators have been talking about bringing Neil McKenzie back into the fray, which has some merit as he has been performing in the domestic competitions. Personally Morne van Wyk would be my answer, he is a classy player who can open the batting which is the biggest headache SA are facing. The current combination isn’t working and De Villiers struggled up the as well. He has had a good season in the middle order and it would be costly to meddle with his position.

To illustrate the problem in the top order, South Africa lost their first 4 wickets for a combined total of 108!! There are very few sides that would be happy being 4 down with only 108 on the board, in their first innings, yet SA were 63/4 and 45/4 in each innings. What is more frightening is that the last 4 wickets produced 93 runs just 15 less than the top-order!!!

The South African bowlers struggled in the first innings, especially Dale Steyn who lacked the rhythm he has had all season. Apart from this the West indies played fantastically, starting off with Gayle tearing the attack apart, followed by contribution from everyone and another excellent performance by Chanderpaul who had an incredible season, being denied in the second innings from scoring a 50 or more in every innings of the year. He managed 7 in a row, with one of them being in 2006. it is an incredible feat and without him, the Windies would still be searching for a Test win against decent opposition.

The second innings saw a worrying collapse for the Windies 6 wickets fell for 21 runs, before Taylor had a little cameo knock.

I genuinely believed it would be a question of how much the Windies would lose by not would they lose? It has certainly made the second test more appealing, South Africa will be looking to even the series, whilst the Windies would be feeling something many of the players haven’t felt before, a sense of pride, a knowing they are indeed good enough to compete.

Questions about Smith’s tenure are surely being asked, it was a huge error to allow the West Indies a first taste of the pitch, one which they savoured, taking the game away from SA by lunch on the second day. They followed this with a fine bowling display which was lacking in the series against England. The West Indies might be slightly undercooked on the batting front, however their firepower in the field can and has made up for this.

SA vs WI Day 3

South Africa managed to add 73 runs before being all out on 195, a score that allowed the West Indies to enforce the follow on. The second biggest captaincy error was made when Gayle decided the Windies would come out to bat for their second innings instead of enforcing the follow on. The end result is the Windies are 146/8 and have a 359 lead.

The question is can SA get it?? In the morning the Windies will not score more than 400, in all likelihood the will not get past a 380 lead. This leaves the question, who can score 380 odd on a docile pitch? Certainly the Australians could do it, as much as I hate to admit it the Australians would tear that score to pieces. Could the Indians do it? Pakistan? Even England?? The south Africans have a chance, but it would take a decent opening pairing, which Gibbs and Smith have been for years, it just seems that Smith is struggling at the crease, this needs to be followed by a typical Kallis century backed up by Amla, Prince and de Viliiers, not an easy task but if SA want to be the best they need to perform and tomorrow brings just that, an opportunity to perform, especially from a situation that looks desperate!!