South Arica Vs West Indies
Starting Time: 2:30 pm
Delhi: Feb 23: The West Indies will go into the first World Cup 2011 encounter with a lot to prove. After all, theirslated first opponents in the World Cup 2011, subjected them to a 5-nil drubbing in the last series they played each other. Indeed, between May 22 and Jun 3, 2010, the Proteas won a quintet of back-to-back matches in the Carribean. The closest the Windies came to beating South Africa was in the last match which the latter won by just 1 wicket with 2 balls to spare. By scoring 252 batting first with a top-score of 67 from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the Calypsos were showing signs of a revival, but they were outdone thanks to a quick-fire 57 from Jacques Kallis.
Not surprisingly, the top run-scorer in that series was South African Hashim Amla with an aggregate of 402 runs and an average of 80.40 at a strike rate of over 100, while the top wicket-taker was also from the Rainbow Nation - Morne Morkel, who picked up 11 from just 4 matches at a staggering average of 15.90. Bravo, the highest run-scorer for the Windies in that series only comes in at No. 4 on the list of top-run-getters with a total of 174 runs in his kitty and an average of 34.80, merely passable. Hearteningly, the second and third best bowlers are West Indians - Keiron Pollard (8 wickets from five matches) and Bravo himself (also 8 wickets from five matches)
The West Indies will be training their guns not only on Amla, who has been in blistering form since last year, but also on his opening partner Graeme Smith and one-down batsman Jacques Kallis. These batsman have excelled in the World Cup warm-ups. Against Zimbabwe and Australia, Amla made 45 and 60 and Smith, 41 and 65, respectively while Jacques Kallis struck an unbeaten 49 and J P Duminy, 47 not out in the lone matches they played.
Some of the Windies however, have also proved that they are no mugs with the bat. With Kenya and Sri Lanka constituting the opposition, Sarwan hit 123 and 39, respectively, Darren Bravo notched up 12 and 54 and his brother Dwayne pitched in with 54 and 20, while Gayle who wasn't in his element in the first match, returned to blast 58 against Sri Lanka.
But the South Africa bowlers score over the West Indies in the warm-ups. While pace bowler Morne Morkel and spinner Imran Tahir each picked up three wickets against Zimbabwe, their team-mates Dale Steyn and Robin Petersen inflicted the same amount of damage against Australia. Meanwhile, the Windies speeders Andre Russell picked up 5 wickets altogether and Kemar Roach and Suleiman Benn, 3 each.
While traditionally, the Windies haven't been very successful against South Africa, winning only 12 matches against them and losing a grand total of 37, their head-to-head since the last World Cup has been particularly dismal, as they have lost all ten matches against the Proteas! Will Thursday be the day when the Windies reverse their fortunes and spin around this losing streak?