Match Preview – South Africa vs West Indies, West Indies in South Africa 2022/23, 2nd Test
For South Africa and West Indies, the current World Test Championship will come to an end at the Wanderers, with neither side competing for a place in the final but both aiming for a better finish than they managed in their previous run. South Africa ended the 2019-2021 cycle in fifth; West Indies ended in eighth. Now, they’re eyeing third and sixth places respectively. If nothing else, that represents progress at a time when Test cricket in both places is suffering a dearth of fixtures and relevance.
After this match, unless there are additional fixtures added to an already jam-packed calendar, South Africa will not play in whites for the next nine months – before hosting India in December – and opening their next World Test Championship cycle. West Indies’ next Tests are also against India, but a little sooner, in July-August. Between now and then, both South Africa and West Indies will concentrate on securing their spots in the 2023 50-over World Cup, with at least one of them set to appear in the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe. For countries who were the third and fourth to play Test cricket respectively, the shift in priorities is too stark to ignore but their desire to reassert themselves as important players in this format will be on full display this week.
You can expect both of them to make a strong case. Although both teams have batting line-ups that are fragile under pressure, they boast strong seam attacks and in theory, there’s no better place for them to put on a show than the Wanderers. In practice, the Bullring has been unusually spinner-friendly this summer and Simon Harmer and Bjorn Fortuin have been among the beneficiaries. To that end, South Africa have included two specialist spinners in their XI and are hopeful the match will go beyond three days to bring them into play.
West Indies won’t be too unhappy with that. A tamer surface will be more like home for them and give them an opportunity to end an away run that started in Australia and then traveled through Zimbabwe, on a positive note. While there won’t actually be any prize for West Indies if they win the match, it will be the first time they have not lost a series in South Africa. For the hosts, letting that record slip won’t be an option, especially as they seek to end the Test summer on a high.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WDLLL
West Indies: LWDLL
In the spotlight
After bagging a pair on his captaincy debut and being dropped from the T20 side for what white-ball coach Rob Walter said were “performance-based” reasons, Temba Bavuma fortnight can only get better. Test cricket is his best format and he is South Africa’s most consistent batter and has scored a half-century in all but one of their last six series. With South Africa’s No.3 and No.5 spots still up for debate in the batting line-up, Bavuma’s role in holding together the line-up at No.4 is even more important, especially after the middle-order were blown away at SuperSport Park.
South Africa named their XI on the eve of the match and have emptied their bench, with four changes from the team that played at SuperSport Park. Keegan Petersen drops out of the batting line-up and Ryan Rickelton has been included – reward for a summer in which he scored three first-class hundreds in as many matches and averages 121.66. With Anrich Nortje out with a groin niggle, surprisingly, South Arica have included two spinners – Simon Harmer and Keshav Maharaj – as well as allrounder Wiaan Mulder. Marco Jansen has been rested and Senuran Muthusamy has lost his spot.
South Africa possible XI: 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Tony de Zorzi, 4 Temba Bavuma (capt), 5 Ryan Rickelton, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Wiaan Mulder, 8 Simon Harmer 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Gerald Coetzee
Windward Islands batting allrounder Alick Athanaze could be in line for a debut in place of Roston Chase. West Indies could also bring in left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie to replace Shannon Gabriel.
West Indies: 1 Kraigg Braithwaite, 2 Tagenarine Chanderpaul, 3 Raymon Reifer, 4 Jermaine Blackwood, 5 Alick Athanaze/Roston Chase, 6 Kyle Mayers, 7 Joshua da Silva, 8 Jason Holder, 9 Alzarri Joseph, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Shannon Gabriel/Gudakesh Motie
Pitch and conditions
All eyes will be on Brendon Frost, the new Wanderers groundsman who is preparing his first Test strip. Frost was previously in charge at Willowmoore Park so he is familiar with Highveld conditions and is unlikely to veer too far away from the traditional Johannesburg surface, with good pace and bounce on offer but, in a plot twist of note, there is also likely to be some turn. The past few seasons have seen spinners among the wickets at the Wanderers and a patchy, grassy surface could offer them something if the game goes past three days. They may be negated by the weather to a degree. After a hot week in Centurion, there’s been some rain around in the build-up to the Wanderers Test but clear skies are forecast for the first four days, with thundershowers expected late on Sunday. A mid-week start to the match means there won’t be much of a crowd with Friday afternoon likely to be when the stadium comes to life.
Stats and trivia
“We got away with a good result but truth be told we weren’t particularly good. TheWest Indies were good. And the wicket was tough but that doesn’t then mean that we just roll over as we did the other day and have done in the past.”
South Africa’s Test coach Shukri Conrad gave a harsh assessment of their first Test performance despite the win and wants to see a better batting effort in this match.
“It was very good for us as a bowling group to get 20 wickets. In the first 20 wickets, we were a bit too expensive and as a batting unit, we’ve got to improve. We’ll come hard, no matter the XI South Africa play. We aren’t far off. South Africa is a tough team at home. With a little more application, we could do well.”
Kraigg Brathwaite isn’t underestimating his opponents
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket