SA in West Indies
Proteas target clean sweep
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)
Roseau - South Africa enter the fifth and final one-day international against West Indies on Thursday at Queen's Park Oval, with a victory and a third straight clean sweep on Caribbean soil clearly in mind.
The South Africans lead the series 4-0, following a 66-run victory, under the Duckworth-Lewis Method, in the first ODI two Saturdays ago at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua, where they also won the second ODI by 17 runs last Monday.
The Proteas then won the third ODI by 67 runs last Friday at Windsor Park in Dominica, where they also completed a seven-wicket victory last Sunday.
Five years ago, South Africa swept a five-match rubber in the Caribbean, and when they hosted West Indies two years ago, they again nailed their opponents.
The South Africans have not lost to West Indies, since their hosts won the semifinal of the ICC Champions Trophy by six wickets with 36 balls to spare four Novembers ago.
The results may suggest differently, but the Proteas have hardly played at their ruthless best, and their captain Graeme Smith would like to finish strongly.
"We would love to win this last game," he said. "It may be difficult, since we have been playing back to back matches in sweltering heat, but I think the guys have handled themselves well in the conditions,.
"We have not bowled and fielded as well as we would like, but we had a few days in between to regroup, and we will see what we want to do as a team."
Smith again emphasised that a clean sweep in the ODI series would help to condemn his side's failure in the preceding Twenty20 World Cup, which was staged in the Caribbean, to a bad, and distant memory, as well as help give the visitors some momentum going into a three-Test series over the next month.
"For us, the players that comprise the limited-overs squad, it would restore a lot of confidence in us, after we peformed so poorly in the T20 World Cup," he said.
Beleaguered West Indies have endured a tumultuous few days, following a fall-out between their captain Chris Gayle and Sulieman Benn.
Gayle controversially sent Benn off the field, when the beanpole left-arm spinner refused to follow a strategic move during South Africa's successful run chase in the fourth ODI, having delivered just four overs out of his maximum allowance of 10.
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson was on compassionate leave on Sunday to attend his grandmother's funeral in Barbados.
But he played down the incident after getting the details during an internal hearing, which resulted in Benn being fined 100 percent of his match fee for insubordination.
Gibson noted, however, that Gayle and Benn have been very good friends off the field, and he did not expect this to change in the future.
"We saw, for the first time from Chris, a little bit of his frustration at somebody not showing the willingness to do what he was asked to do, and he made a decision at the time," he said.
"He obviously stands by his decision, and obviously I have to support him. He's the captain, and if the captain asks you to do something, you do it, and if it don't work, so be it."
Gibson remained confident that his side could rebound from the internal squabble, as well as the morass on the field to avoid the clean sweep.
"(Losing is) tough. Because in those four defeats, and if you take the two Twenty20s into consideration, five of those games we had a realistic chance of winning. Hopefully, we can put ourselves in a winning position again on Thursday.
Gibson can take heart that West Indies have won five of their last six ODIs (one was a weather-affected no-result) at Queen's Park Oval, but South Africa have won their last three against West Indies here.
West Indies (from): Chris Gayle (capt), Dwayne Bravo, Sulieman Benn, Dave Bernard Jr, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Travis Dowlin, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Dale Richards, Darren Sammy, Jerome Taylor
South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (capt), Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, Loots Bosman, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, Abraham de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Alviro Pietersen, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Roelof van der Merwe.