DANIEL GALLAN: An Aussie blueprint on how to beat the West Indies
It’s raining in Southampton. Storm Miguel has blown over from Spain, covering England’s south coast in a deluge, forcing residents to layer up and unpack heaters and hot water bottles that they’d hoped would stay stowed away for the summer.
It’s just as gloomy inside the Hilton Hotel at the Hampshire Bowl where the Proteas are holed up. Between injuries to key players, a trio of World Cup defeats and the news that AB de Villiers made a last-ditch attempt to take part in the tournament, everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong for Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson.
They’re facing an early exit and their worst ever World Cup campaign. Lose to the West Indies on Monday (if the weather allows for a full game) and it’s over.
The men in maroon will be smarting from their 15-run defeat to Australia
HENDRICKS HAS TO PLAY
Alongside Jasprit Bumrah and Kagiso Rabada, Mitchell Starc is among the best fast bowlers alive. He may even be better than the rest.
The lanky left hander was devastating against the West Indies. Yorkers and swingers delivered at a searing pace saw Starc claim 5/46, his sixth five-wicket haul in just 77 ODIs. For context, Glen McGrath is one ahead of his countryman with seven five-wicket hauls achieved across 250 matches. At this rate, Starc will soon surpass War Younis’ tally of 13 from 262 games.
Beuran Hendricks is no Mitchell Starc, but he is a left armer who can deliver the ball at pace. His Cricinfo bio might have him pegged as a “fast-medium” bowler, but when he bends his back and finds his rhythm he is able to send it down at over 140km/h. More importantly, he can swing it both ways.
STAY IN THE GAME
Harkening back to the glory days of old, Jason Holder has assembled a bowling arsenal that loves nothing more than hurling bouncers at batsmen forced to hop like timid rabbits. Oshan Thomas and Sheldon Cottrell are permitted two bouncers an over and you can put the house on them making full use of their quota.
Against Australia, a side accustomed to hostile bowling, the West Indies bowled aggressive lengths with the requisite fielders stationed square and behind the wicket. When the score read 79/4, another rout looked on the cards.
But Steve Smith stuck around. Unlike Glenn Maxwell who paid the price for taking on Cottrell’s short ball, the former Aussie skipper showed resilience. He knew that at least four of six balls per over would be in his half and he rebuilt his side’s innings by accumulating singles and hitting anything loose.
With wicketkeeper Alex Carey and then all-rounder Nathan Coulter-Nile, Smith saw the score swell to 147/6 and the 249/7.
South Africa’s top order have already got a working over at the hands of Jofra Archer. Hashim Amla will not need reminding of the nasty blow to the head inflicted by the English quick. But if the Proteas top order can withstand the onslaught and bide their time until the new balls lose their sheen, there are runs to be had as bouncers soon turn into half trackers.
GIVE THEM A TASTE OF THEIR OWN MEDICINE
Rabada sleepwalked his way through the opening two games but came alive against India. He was mean, he was aggressive, and he sent down thunderbolts that had India’s imperious top three itching to get off strike and away from his fury.
South Africa’s gun bowler needs to fire again on Monday. Chris Gayle, like most of the big-hitting Caribbeans at this World Cup, doesn’t enjoy having the ball whizz around chest height. The Australians knew this and kept their lengths back in a bid to not only take wickets but also dry up runs.
With the Rose Bowl’s long boundaries square of the wicket, shorter pitched bowling will be harder to put away. If South Africa’s seamers can maintain a disciplined length while adhering to a tight line, they may strangle the free-flowing West Indians. Failure to do so could sound the death knell at this World Cup.
Daniel Gallan is a freelance cricket correspondent for Eyewitness News based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter @danielgallan