Proteas won’t be fretting ... yet

2015-01-03 07:30
Simon Harmer (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Another 100 runs or more: that is what West Indies may require in their first innings if they are to feel they’re right at the races in the third and final Test.

SCORECARD: SA v West Indies, Day 1

It makes the first session of day two against South Africa at Newlands of strong importance on Saturday as the Caribbean tourists resume on their overnight tally of 276 for six.

Analysts battled to say with conviction who they felt bossed proceedings on well-attended “Tweede Nuwe Jaar” in the Mother City; if anything, sentiment seemed to sway between minor advantage Windies and honours even.

There was, interestingly, a bit less support for “nose in front Proteas” ... though that’s the way I am just inclined to place my cross in the impromptu ballot.

The average first-knock total at the famous ground is 332, but I am not even sure average is that pertinent here; the pitch seems particularly benign on this occasion and ought to positively ooze runs on the second and third days’ play.

It is then that you would imagine Hashim Amla’s home side, fuelled by the usual arsenal of proven strokeplayers and retention of their in-vogue “seven specialist batsmen” formula, will be intending to knuckle down with zeal in the middle ahead of any later signs of misbehaviour.

I will have egg plastered all over my face if the world’s top-ranked outfit suddenly slump to 90 for five or the like, of course, but may also not be entirely alone in suspecting instead that 400-plus is going to be well within reach of the SA cause.

With respect to the Taylor-Gabriel-Holder pace alliance for West Indies, they do not yet command even a chunk of the aura of Holding, Roberts and Garner, nor Ambrose, Walsh and Marshall -- and on this budding back-breaker of a track, that could spell trouble for their time in the field under further, expected sunny skies.

So it could be of priceless value to the underdogs, already 1-0 down in the series and needing victory for an unlikely share of the spoils, if they can press on for a further session and a half or thereabouts to delay the Proteas’ own first knock.

The really workmanlike score for them to boast is arguably 375 or north of that: first West Indian mini-target on the second morning, however, will be just to bust the 300 barrier for the first time in the series.

And even that is no fait accompli if you consider not only that South Africa will have in their grasp straight away a new ball only 10 overs old, but also knowledge that tail-end resistance by the visitors has been negligible in the summer hostilities to this point.

A salvo of early “skittles” could undo a great deal of the hitherto pretty dogged work done to construct a meaningful score.

The main man tasked with preventing that scenario is Jermaine Blackwood, the Jamaican right-hander in only his fifth Test match, who is 45 not out and only two deliveries shy of becoming the most resistant of the West Indies batsmen thus far in terms of balls faced in the innings.

He is also the last available specialist willow-wielder and if he goes quickly - though he will be wishing to better his current Test best score of 66 - then the cat could well feast among the remaining pigeons.

All three Proteas quickies will have reason to be fired-up in Saturday’s first session: Dale Steyn because he is inching ever more invitingly toward the magical 400-scalp mark in Tests (now 391) and Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel because they may be miffed not to yet feature in the wickets column through some rotten luck at times on Friday.

A promising debut so far for the animated Warriors off-spinner Simon Harmer, who is two strikes away from a dream, immediate five-for, only adds to the potential for a reasonably sharp mop-up of the remaining four wickets. 

With a handful of West Indies players getting forties or fifties on day one but then being either bundled out or naively self-destructing (the latter was a repetitive theme), it is all too tempting to suspect that they have already begun to make life ominously difficult for themselves.

I may be wrong.

Psst, hands up for first Proteas century-maker in this clash, anyone?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    west indies  |  proteas  |  cape town  |  cricket

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