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South Africa vs West Indies ODI series: Four key battles

With the ICC World Cup just around the corner, South Africa and West Indies have one last chance to fine-tune their approach before heading off to Australasia. They will, of course, play each other during the group stage of the tournament, too, but that will be under different circumstances. For now, it’s all about ironing out the creases. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Take any older preview for a one-day international series over the last five months and the same thing will repeat itself again and again. In fact, chances are you can probably read any preview from the last year and you will see the words “World Cup preparation” etched in somewhere.

Rejoice! For this is the last time, at least for the next three years, where you will read those words. Just in case playing each other in a group game during the World Cup is not enough, South Africa and West Indies will play five ODIs against each other starting on Friday. The squads have been decided and this is the last chance both teams have to tweak their combinations.

The series is probably far more important for South Africa than the Windies since the Proteas have made some odd selections when it comes to back-up players. Their first choice players will be hoping to take a break at some point during the series. Guys like Dale Steyn have previously said playing so many one-dayers can be a bit of a pain in the backside, which is completely understandable.

But, as they say, practice makes perfect and with a big tournament just around the corner, South Africa have just a few weeks to get all their ducks in a row. Here are the Protea’s four major battles for this series.

South Africa’s key players vs the risk of injury

According to a study led by John Orchard at the University of Melbourne back in 2002, teams who bat first are often more prone to injury. The reasons weren’t clear, but they did find some interesting stats for certain types of players. Fast bowlers, quite obviously, have a 14% chance of injury while batsmen and spin bowlers have a risk of just 4%. Wicketkeepers have a 2% chance of injury.

South Africa, though, have seemingly been cursed with an injury problem lately. These injuries have rarely occurred on the playing field and guys like Quinton de Kock have been picking up knocks in warm-ups rather than when doing their jobs. Perhaps the South Africans will feel that they have now been dealt all their bad luck cards, but that doesn’t mean the risk isn’t still there. They need their key players to stay fit until the start of the tournament and it is possible that a few of the big names will be rested towards the latter part of the series, just to make sure there are no surprises.

South Africa vs bowling at the death

It’s become something that is mentioned almost as often as South Africa’s record in knockout matches at ICC events. The Proteas’ bowling at the death has been most baffling in recent times. Leaking runs and consistently bowling short, even when it’s clearly not working, has seen them leak anything from 60 to 80 runs in the last five overs.

Charl Langveldt has been called in to cast a beady eye over proceedings and help Allan Donald cure the disease that has infected them. If you look carefully, you might even see a yorker in at least one of the upcoming ODIs, but don’t count on that being the ultimate strategy.

Chris Gayle vs the world

When he’s not blasting bowlers out of the park, Christopher Henry Gayle is fighting the good fight on behalf of his teammates. He lashed out at the West Indies cricket board over Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo’s exclusion from the World Cup squad. South Africa’s second string bowlers have had no answers on how to curb the big man’s big hitting, but with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel back in action, more will be expected of the Proteas. But, if Gayle is fit and firing, buckle up for another lesson in how to ruin everyone’s will to be a bowler.

South Africa’s backup players vs their critics

Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien and Wayne Parnell are all players who will have a point to prove. Parnell, who so rarely swings the ball these days, has all the talent in the world, but has struggled to show it on the field. Abbott, too, has not quite adapted to the one-day format as much as he had hoped and why the selectors persist with Behardien, nobody really knows. It’s likely that all three will get a run in the team at some point and with conditions in South Africa and Australia very similar, they have one last chance to prepare for the big stage. DM

Photo: West Indies’ Chris Gayle celebrates after beating New Zealand in the Super Eight stage cricket match between West Indies and New Zealand of the World Twenty20 tournament in Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy, Sri Lanka, 01 October 2012. EPA/HARISH TYAGI

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