Spinners, medium-pacers must set tone for Proteas in West Indies series

Spinner Tabraiz Shamsi will have to answer the call for the Proteas on the slow Sabina Park pitch. Photo: Reuters

Spinner Tabraiz Shamsi will have to answer the call for the Proteas on the slow Sabina Park pitch. Photo: Reuters

Published May 23, 2024


Cricket makes its return to the iconic Sabina Park in Kingston on Thursday night after an almost two-year absence as the West Indies host South Africa in three T20 Internationals at the ground.

Many moons ago, Sabina Park was one of the few grounds in the Caribbean that got the fast bowlers itching to lace up their boots and have a full go as the wicket easily carried the tag of ‘hardest and fastest pitch’ in all the islands.

However, the ground now tends to favour spin and slower bowlers due to its slow nature, despite the numerous attempts to restore the wicket to its former glory.

Slower bowlers including the Windies’ Odean Smith and Obed McCoy, and Kiwi spinners Mitchell Santner and Michael Bracewell, have since enjoyed reasonable success at the ground as they make up four of the top five wicket takers in T20 Internationals at the venue.

The recent slow nature of the wicket has also seen scores take a significant dip.

As a result, only one 200-plus total has been scored at the venue in the past decade, with New Zealand’s 215-5 two years ago being the only time the milestone was reached.

However, all that takes nothing away from the rich history the ground holds – after all, Sabina Park is where legends were made.

Who can forget Sir Gary Sobers’ 365 not out in a Test match against Pakistan in 1958?

It was Sobers’ maiden century, the highest Test score at the time and undoubtedly an innings that gave birth to one of the greatest all-rounders the game has ever seen.

That history will motivate the Proteas players tonight (9pm start, SA time) as they look to build momentum ahead of next month’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and US.

The West Indians, meanwhile, will have 20 000 fans cheering them on as they look to restore their status as a force in the shortest format of the game.

Perhaps the Proteas will be the more motivated side, given that the last time they faced West Indies in T20s was in South Africa, where they were handed a 2-1 series defeat by the men in maroon in March last year – a pill that was and still is hard to swallow.

The visitors are prepared for the conditions, having taken three different spinners on tour, including left-arm leg-break Tabraiz Shamsi, slow left-arm orthodox Bjorn Fortuin and right-arm leg-break sensation Nqaba Peter.

Medium-pacers Andile Phehlukwayo, Wiaan Mulder and Patrick Kruger lurk behind the scenes ready to make the best of the conditions that statistically favour their style of bowling.

Quicks Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortjé and Gerald Coetzee are also known to have quite a diverse repertoire that includes off-cutters, leg-cutters and knuckle balls – all slower balls that Sabina Park tends to be conducive to.

On the batting front, Matthew Breetzke makes his first international tour with the senior national side, while the world is set to be introduced to the batting powerhouse that is Ryan Rickelton.

— Proteas Men (@ProteasMenCSA) May 21, 2024

All the while, experienced heads Quinton de Kock, tour captain Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks will be there to guide the entire squad through what is expected to be an explosive series.

Proteas Squad For West Indies

Rassie van der Dussen (captain), Ottneil Baartman, Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Matthew Breetzke, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Patrick Kruger, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortjé, Nqaba Peter, Ryan Rickelton, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi.

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