South Africa v West Indies preview
The West Indies have made it to South Africa. They've played some warm-up cricket and haven't gone home, which will be a relief for ticket holders heading to the first Test at Centurion on 17 December, where the Proteas have lost only one Test in 14 years.
Prior to the most recent match, in February, which Australia claimed, no overseas side had won a Test at there since 2000, spanning 13 Tests. The Windies have never won at this venue, their last visit in 2004 ending in a 10-wicket demolition.
As such, only 40-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul has any experience playing a Test at SuperSport Park, with Chris Gayle the only other current player to have participated in 2004. The big-hitting opener is out of commission though, through injury, leaving Chanders (who averages over 53 in Tests, mind you) as the very senior man.
The batting line-up is also hampered by the absence of Darren Bravo, who pulled out of the tour for unknown 'personal reasons', leaving some talented but inexperienced players, like Kraigg Brathwaite, to pick up some highly intimidating slack.
The Proteas will be pleased not to have to deal with spinner Sunil Narine, who is one of a bunch of big names banned from bowling right now. Suleiman Benn is the lone spinner in the squad, and the home batsmen will be far more at home if he's hit out of the attack early on.
It's not only the Windies who have to fill some gaps though, with the hosts missing all-rounder JP Duminy through injury. He is set to be replaced by Cobras star Stiaan van Zyl, who has been hovering on the sidelines for seasons but has finally cracked the nod.
He was domestic First-Class cricket's top run-getter this past season, and hardcore fans have been clamouring for his inclusion for months. He got the call ahead of limited-overs favourites Rilee Rossouw and David Miller, as well as under-fire Farhaan Behardien.
Another exciting plot line is the addition to the squad of two uncapped players in batsman Temba Bavuma and young fast bowler Kagiso Rabada. If picked, which seems unlikely for the first Test, one or both of them will be the first black African to play for the Proteas this decade.
Rabada is a particularly exciting prospect. At 19, he's only played seven first class games, but his efforts at the Under-19 World Cup in February propelled him into the international spotlight. He's played two T20s for the Proteas, and while his inclusion in the squad is for educational purposes, his maturation and pace are exciting to watch.
The visitors come into the series with very little cricket under their belts, given their abandonment of the tour to India in October, where three Tests went unplayed. South Africans are no strangers to extended salary strikes, so we should be grateful that, unlike the Post Office, this series looks like it will deliver.
For the hosts, AB de Villiers is always the key man. If the openers fail, he's called on to steady the ship. If they succeed, he has the freedom to play some nifty shots. This is his home ground, and he'll look to add to the three Test tons he has here already.
The Windies will need Chanderpaul to call on all his experience to be the backbone of the line-up, especially as the rest of the side is so young. He's the only man who's played here before, and will need to better his top venue score of 43.
Last Five Head-To-Head Results
2010 Third Test: South Africa won by seven wickets in Bridgetown
2010 Second Test: Match drawn in Basseterre
2010 First Test: South Africa won by 163 runs in Port of Spain
2008 Second Test: South Africa won by an innings and 100 runs in Durban
2008 First Test: South Africa won by seven wickets in Cape Town
South Africa: Hashim Amla (capt), AB de Villiers (vice-capt), Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Stiaan van Zyl, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Temba Bavuma, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada
West Indies: Denesh Ramdin (capt), Sulieman Benn, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sheldon Cottrell, Assad Fudadin, Shannon Gabriel, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Leon Johnson, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton
Dates: 17-21 December
Morning session: 10:30-12:30 (08:30-10:30 GMT)
Afternoon session: 13:10-15:10 (11:10-13:10 GMT)
Evening session: 15:30-17:30 (13:30-15:30 GMT)
On-field umpires: Billy Bowden and Aleem Dar
Third umpire: Paul Reiffel
Match referee: Ranjan Madugale
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