Things should get more interesting from here. After two Tests of one-way traffic, expect a closer contest between West Indies and South Africa as the two teams step up preparations for T20 World Cup 2021.
West Indies have stacked their squad with superstars as they prepare to rise from the tenth position on the T20I rankings to title contenders at the big event. South Africa cannot allow themselves to dream of the same label, given the heartbreak of the past and the mess they have found themselves in during the last 18 months, which may take the pressure off a team that often goes into major tournaments with expectation but return empty-handed.
South Africa are still in the combination-finding phase, having played second-string T20I sides in their last two series while juggling between biosecure bubbles and Test series – one of which, against Australia, never happened. This is the first time since the England series in November last year that they have a first-choice group of players together and they would be keeping it that way for the next few tours. They head straight to Ireland from the Caribbean and then hope to play Sri Lanka before the T20 World Cup.
West Indies also have a busy schedule ahead of the main event. Thet will host Australia, who albeit will not be at full strength, and Pakistan over the next two months. They would want to solidify their squad and develop some consistency as they have won only two out of their last seven T20I series, both against Sri Lanka.
West Indies LLWLW (Last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
South Africa LLLWL
In the spotlight
Temba Bavuma is not the least experienced T20I player to captain South Africa. Apart from Graeme Smith who did on debut when the format was introduced, Hashim Amla did it in just his fourth match, and Faf du Plessis and Johan Botha in their fifth, but Bavuma might be the least expected one. He has largely been thought of as a long-form player, while his white-ball form and aggression have flown under the radar. This is his opportunity to change the narrative and establish himself as both opening batter and leader in the build-up to back-to-back T20 World Cups.
For all his form in leagues around the world, Andre Russell is yet to score a T20I half-century. He is likely to earn his 50th T20I cap in this series, which is as good a time as any to make a statement with bat or ball. Russell hasn’t taken more than one wicket in a T20I since May 2018, though he has only played five games since that match. That said, this may just be his time to re-establish himself as a senior figure in the national side.
West Indies may bring back Shimron Hetmyer to open the batting at the expense of Evin Lewis, who had a poor series against Sri Lanka. They would be looking to welcome back their big guns in the side – Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Russell and Dwayne Bravo. The quartet last played a T20I together six years ago.
West Indies (probable): 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Evin Lewis/Shimron Hetmyer, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Kieron Pollard (capt), 5 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 6 Jason Holder, 7 Andre Russell, 8 Dwayne Bravo, 9 Fabian Allen, 10 Kevin Sinclair, 11 Sheldon Cottrell
Bavuma has recovered from both a hip injury and a dislocated finger and would likely partner Quinton de Kock at the top of the order, which could leave no room for Janneman Malan. du Plessis’ absence could create a spot for Kyle Verreynne, although Heinrich Klaasen is the incumbent. South Africa have a wealth of fast bowlers to choose from and may want to start with their strongest suit. That will include the Test attack of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje, and could have room for one other quick in Andile Phehlukwayo or Sisanda Magala, and two spinners in George Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi.
South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Temba Bavuma (capt), 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Heinrich Klaasen, 5 David Miller, 6 George Linde, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo/Sisanda Magala 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Anrich Nortje, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi
Pitch and conditions
The National Cricket Stadium in Grenada has only hosted one T20I, in January last year. Over 400 runs were scored in that game when West Indies hosted Ireland. That run-fest did not look like an accident as an ODI between West Indies and England a year earlier featured over 800 runs.
So expect big runs but only if the weather allows. It has been raining in Grenada in the lead-up to the match and showers have been forecast for the next week. The chance of rain on Saturday sits at 70%.
Stats and trivia
West Indies and South Africa have played against each other in ten T20Is, with West Indies winning four and South Africa six. The last time they played was at the T20 World Cup in March 2016.
Lewis needs 11 runs to reach 1000 in T20Is, and would be the sixth West Indies batter to reach that milestone.
The last time Gayle, Bravo, Pollard and Russell, all featured in a T20I was in 2015 against South Africa when West Indies had chased down a then-record target of 232.
“The Test series obviously went exceptionally well and one of the outcomes of that series is momentum, even if it is a different format. It’s only natural that we will carry that confidence into this series.”
Captain Temba Bavuma hopes South Africa can transfer their Test form to the T20Is