Desperados don’t only feature in cowboy movies. Twenty-two of them will line up in Grenada on Saturday to fight it out in the deciding match of a T20I series.
Of their eight rubbers in this format since March 2019, West Indies have won only two – home and away against Sri Lanka – and drawn another. That run of indifferent form included losing a series to Afghanistan in November 2019. South Africa have had an even leaner time of it, going down in five of their last six rubbers and drawing the other. The last time they won was also in March 2019, and also against the Lankans.
And here we are, locked at 2-2 with a game to play by teams that have tested each other rigorously during the past week – not least because they have both shown weakness, particularly with the bat.
West Indies went in heavily favoured because they had managed to corral Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle and Andre Russell in the same squad for the first time in six years. But South Africa, buoyed by their convincing 2-0 victory in the preceding Test series, have given as good as they’ve got and were a win away from claiming the rubber before the home side levelled matters on Thursday.
West Indies seem to save their seriousness – and their best cricket – for tournaments, so they might not be too focused on winning on Saturday. If anything, they will not let expectation get in the way of their penchant for playing attractive white-ball cricket. But the South Africans will be bent on success. Pressure was mounting before the Test series because they had lost nine of their previous 13 series, and won just two, across the formats. That followed them going down in five of their eight completed games at the 2019 World Cup, their worst showing in the event. There’s a lot to like, then, about the prospect of this duel between desperados.
But a dark cloud hangs over the match. Many dark clouds, actually. And high winds. And lashing rain. Hurricane Elsa has moved into the region like a boss, blotting the sun out of the Caribbean sky and drenching the earth below. Despite forecasts for rain throughout the series, there’s been minimal disruption. But Elsa is a threat of a wholly different magnitude. Even so, word from Grenada is that a game looks more probable than possible.
Good, because there are questions that need answering. Will Aiden Markram ever bowl again having opened on Thursday and disappeared for 20 – the most runs the Windies have scored in the first over of a T20I? “Not my best day, but I suppose it’s the nature of the beast,” Markram said with an audible smile in an audio file release by the team management on Friday. “We thought maybe I could sneak an over in up front. But they were brave enough to take it on from the first ball [which Lendl Simmons swept for four].”
What of Anrich Nortje, who had his left knee drilled by a vicious drive from Pollard on Thursday but somehow rose, with the help of medical treatment, to send down the five balls he needed to bowl to complete his last over? Nortje’s fitness for Saturday had yet to be confirmed, but he is the hardest of South Africa’s hard men. “When the ball hit him I thought he was done and that we were going to have to find someone to finish his over,” Markram said. “I walked up to him and he looked like he was in a world of pain; a man who doesn’t show too much pain. For him to deliver after that was amazing.”
Will Chris Gayle be given another chance to show off his cartwheeling ability? Or will the rightful owner of that wicket celebration, Kevin Sinclair, return to the XI, if only to save Gayle from putting out his ageing back?
Will Elsa allow answers to be had? At least we know that question will be settled.
When: Saturday July 3, 2021. 2pm Local Time
Where: St George’s, Grenada
What to expect: A dry and decent pitch below, wet and wild skies above.
West Indies: Fabian Allen jarred a shoulder in the field on Thursday, and left with his arm in a sling. That could re-open the door for Kevin Sinclair.
Possible XI: Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Kevin Sinclair, Obed McCoy, Fidel Edwards
South Africa:Expect Anrich Nortje to be declared fit enough to bowl his four overs. If he isn’t, giving Lizaad Williams a game wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Possible XI: Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, George Linde, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi
(Story from Cricbuzz by Telford Vice)