Crunch time for West Indies; all-win South Africa still looking for the perfect game

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West Indies vs South Africa
North Sound, Antigua, 8.30pm local

Big picture – Semi-final spots up for grabs

It isn’t actually called a quarter-final, but for West Indies, this game against South Africa could well be one. Win, and they will be through to the T20 World Cup 2024 semi-finals, irrespective of other results. Lose, and then net run-rate comes into play if England lose to USA; West Indies will be out if England beat USA.
South Africa’s equation is slightly more nuanced. A win will guarantee them a spot in the last four but they could still get there with a close defeat, and by the time the match is played, they will know exactly what the margins they are working with are.

What may be lurking in the back of South Africa’s mind is how close five of their six games so far have been. They have snatched victories from the unlikeliest of scenarios and seem to be riding a wave of good fortune that they have failed to catch in tournaments past. They will be the first to admit that they are yet to put together the perfect game, but they boast a perfect record. Six out of six wins means they are once again being spoken of as champion material. Could this be the year South Africa finally win a T20 World Cup? West Indies might have something to say about that.

The co-hosts were unbeaten through the group stage too. Though they lost to defending champions England in the Super Eight after that, they are still on track to achieving what they set out to: re-establish West Indies as a powerhouse by competing strongly and (hopefully, for them) winning a third T20 World Cup. For now, it all hinges on how they do in this match and though they may take heart from sweeping South Africa 3-0 before the tournament, it’s worth remembering that that was a second-string South Africa side. The real test is now.

West Indies WLWWW (last five matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWWWW

In the spotlight – Alzarri Joseph and Marco Jansen

Alzarri Joseph has the same number of tournament wickets as Anrich Nortje – 11 – at a slightly higher average (13.81 compared to 12.90) but a slightly better strike rate. Joseph has taken a wicket once every 11 balls at the tournament – and Nortje once every 13 balls – and is rightly seen as West Indies’ biggest threat with the ball.
Joseph has only played two T20Is against South Africa, and in the last one took a series-winning 5 for 40 to seal a seven-run win. Four of the five batters Joseph dismissed in that match – Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen – have been part of South Africa’s XI in every game at the World Cup thus far. On his home ground, Antigua, he will have even more motivation to attempt to repeat the feat.
With Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Ottneil Baartman all shining at different stages of the competition, Marco Jansen has flown under the radar despite being an important part of South Africa’s progress. The economy rate of 5.90 includes bowling mostly in the powerplay and is South Africa’s second-lowest after Baartman (though Jansen has played one more game). Though he has gone wicketless in all but one match, Jansen has been match-winning in other ways. Against England, he was tasked with the game’s penultimate over and conceded just seven runs, leaving Nortje 13 to defend. Crucially, he has adapted to conditions when some of his team-mates have not, and he is yet to be given a chance to show what he can do with the bat.

Team news – West Indies have choices to make

Shai Hope’s unbeaten 39-ball 82 opening the batting against USA may mean West Indies do not have immediate cause to bring in Kyle Mayers, who has replaced the injured Brandon King in their squad. It’s an interesting call to make because Mayers has the advantage of knowing the South African players well, from his time at the SA20, and of being West Indies’ second-leading run-scorer in the pre-World Cup series played against South Africa last month. Their other decision will be in the make-up of the bowling unit – whether to include an extra seamer in Romario Shepherd or stick to the offspin of Roston Chase.

West Indies (probable): 1 Shai Hope/Kyle Mayers, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 4 Rovman Powell (capt), 5 Andre Russell, 6 Sherfane Rutherford, 7 Romario Shepherd/Roston Chase, 8 Obed McCoy, 9 Akeal Hosein, 10 Alzarri Joseph, 11 Gudakesh Motie

The last time South Africa played in Antigua, they opted for two spinners and left Baartman out, and may consider that combination again. However, Tabraiz Shamsi was expensive against USA, which could open the door for the other left-arm spinner in the squad: Bjorn Fortuin, who has not had a game thus far. It’s more likely South Africa will stick to what they like best, with an unchanged batting line-up and one of Shamsi or Baartman.

South Africa (probable): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Aiden Markram (capt), 4 Tristan Stubbs, 5 Heinrich Klaasen, 6 David Miller, 7 Marco Jansen, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Tabraiz Shamsi/Ottneil Baartman, 11 Anrich Nortje

From South Africa’s match against USA earlier in the week, North Sound seemed good for run-scoring. That was a day game and this is a night fixture, though, so there may be a slight difference. There have been two night games played at this venue in the tournament: Australia chased down 73 against Namibia inside six overs and scored 100 runs inside 12 overs when they beat Bangladesh in a rain-affected game on Friday. Rain, in fact, may be the biggest concern for the teams with the forecast not great during the day on Sunday, but the precipitation probability decreases to 17% in the evening.

“It’s important for us to continue in this vein because we see what’s at stake now.”
Shai Hope wants West Indies to keep playing the way they did against USA with the knockouts in sight

“This team believes that we can be really great as a unit. Obviously, with the last World Cup [in India] bowing out in the semi-finals… it’s both the character and there’s a lot of hurt. So, we just take it one game at a time and focus on trying to get the results to go our way and not looking at the negatives, just trying to highlight the positives as much as possible.”
South Africa want to make amends for their semi-final exit seven months ago at the ODI World Cup, says Keshav Maharaj



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