One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

Match Preview: South Africa Vs. West Indies

The hosts South Africa take on the past champions, West Indies in the opening match of the ICC World Cup 2003. Lets have a quick preview of the encounter

On paper and current form and according to cricketing common sense, South Africa look favourites to steamroll their first opponents, the West Indians. The South African team looks very strong. Check out South African team's analysis done by Abhijeet to judge for yourself the pedigree of this power-house of international cricket. At home, the South Africans will be doubly dangerous against the flamboyant West Indians. South Africa will rely heavily on their pace attack led admirably by their captain Shaun Pollock and Mkhaya Ntini. The pace of Ntini and the guile and discipline of Pollock will be a tough proposition for the West Indian team, especially for the young openers Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds. But do not underestimate the determination of these two youngsters who proved to be hard nuts to crack on their recent Indian tour. Gayle who cracked three tons in that series can be a dangerous customer if he can get through the first few overs where he is circumspect and has a tendency to play far too much inside the line of the ball, as a result. Hinds is equally explosive and together they form one of the most dangerous opening partnerships if they play to their potential and talent.

If they can somehow manage to play out the initial burst from the South African opening pacemen, they will face the pace, cunning and experience of "White Lightening", Allan Donald. Added to this is the underrated pace of Jacques Kallis. A tough proposition for the West Indians, indeed. But it gets better for the West Indians as the gaze travels down their batting line-up. Brian Lara, the Prince, is looking to make a grand comeback onto the world stage that he ruled like a proud lion for many years before Tendulkar rightfully claimed that honour. Then comes the shrewd cunning of Shivnarine Chanderpaul who can be a really sticky batsman whom even the best bowlers find it difficult to dislodge. The return of Marlon Samuels to the West Indian team is a great news for them. Samuels is the future of West Indian cricket... their most talented batsman. Their captain Carl Hooper is the most experienced batsman in their team. He can play equally well against the pacemen and spinners and can stay at the crease with a icy cool temperament that rivals that of the ex - Australian captain Steve Waugh. Even the combined strength of the Protean pace bowling can pale into insignificance if the West Indian batting line up fires, as it has been doing for the past year.

Reversing the roles, let us look at the West Indian bowling and South African batting...

As much as the West Indian batting is full of talent and flair, their bowling is their weak link. Still floundering after the retirement of their legendary pace bowlers, Ambrose and Walsh, they have not managed to piece together a stable pace attack which can threaten the opposition into submission. Mervyn Dillon is their best bowler and most llikely to provide the early breakthrough against the strong opening partnership of talented but mercurial Herschelle Gibbs and the workman-like Gary Kirsten. Dillon's main weapon is his ability to continue bowling to a plan, much like the South African captain. His discipline would be a great boon against the flamboyance of Gibbs. The frisky Cory Collymore can bowl at a lively pace. Vasbert Drakes proved to be a valuable bowler against the Indians and then in Bangladesh. Nixon Mclean is the fourth pace bowler in the West Indian line-up. But as good as these bowlers can be, they simply cannot match up against the South African batting line-up which boasts of the hugely talented Jacques Kallis, the young Boeta Dippenaar, the hyperactive and innovative Jonty Rhodes and the determined Boucher. Shaun Pollock who comes in to bat late in the order is no bunny with the willow in his hands. But the best thing in the South African batting line-up is the presence of "Zulu", Lance Klusener who wields his "Big Bertha" like an ironsmith's hammer. He can either bat up the order at one-drop or can come in late at the 40-over stage, and can be just as effective and destructive. However, Klusener has not been in the best of forms lately and one area that he is vulnerable in, is his ability to face quality spin bowling. Unfortunately, West Indies do not have a quality spinner and have to make do with the dibbly-dobbly off-spin dished out by Carl Hooper. But Carl Hooper, with his flat deliveries can restrict the big swing of the the Zulu's bat.

The pitch at Newlands in Cape Town, witness to the glittering opening ceremony yesterday, is said to be "sticky". The ball does not come on to the bat as much as it does on other pitches like the one at Bloemfontein. This means that the flair will have to give way for discipline in batting. The flamboyance will have to be curbed in favour of a more workman-like approach. The Chanderpauls, Hoopers, Kallises and Dippenaars wil be the key players in today's match rather than the Gibbs, Gayles and Zulus. Moreover from the bowling point-of-view, the sea-side Newlands pitch will not provide much assistance to the out and out pace bowlers. Added to this is the rain that has been falling in the last few days. The over-cast conditions and the winds coming in from the sea will be helpful to the swing and seam bowlers. The sticky nature of the wicket will not provide huge turn to spinners, so their part in the drama will be reduced to a supporting role.

All in all, the stage is perfectly set for a keen tussle between the bat and ball, without a tilt either towards the willow or the cherry.

Let the contest begin! ... May the best team win!!

My prediction: South African win. But like the Libran that I am, I would not rule out a West Indian upset. 'coz mark my words... these West Indians can prove to be silent killers!

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