ICC World Cup 2015: West Indies aim to buck recent history against South Africa
Sydney, Feb 26 (IANS) A buoyant West Indies will try to defy a recent run of poor results and extend their winning streak when they take on South Africa in a crucial cricket World Cup Pool B match here on Friday.
Only last month, the Caribbean side were completely outplayed by the Proteas on African soil, battered 1-4 in a five-match One-Day International (ODI) series where they appeared out of its depth at times, reports CMC.
And the stats make for dire reading. The one-wicket win in Port Elizabeth, last month was the first time the West Indies had beaten South Africa in an ODI in nine years.
More depressingly, in the three previous bilateral series, South Africa swept the Caribbean side 5-0 in each. In their last World Cup meeting in India four years ago, South Africa came away with a comfortable seven-wicket triumph in Delhi. It underscores the nature of the task the West Indies face when they walk out at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Friday.
Importantly, however, they enter the contest on the back of a good run, having defeated Pakistan and Zimbabwe convincingly to compensate for their embarrassing loss to Ireland in their opening game. Coach Stuart Williams on Thursday said the side had learnt a lot from the recent South Africa series and believes the next meeting between the two sides can be different.
"The series against South Africa was more about learning about our game and where we need to go. We were playing the number one team in the world. Now it's not a series. It's just a one-off game in the World Cup. So it's a different mind-set, and we're prepared for Friday," Williams pointed out.
"The guys have been (supporting each other), they have been working hard, they have been responding to my coaching and we've been doing fine up to this day."
West Indies have responded brilliantly ever since losing to Ireland. Against Pakistan, they amassed 310 and then wiped out their opponents for 160, in a clinical all-round effort at Hagley Oval in Christchurch. They stepped it up even further against Zimbabwe, piling up an incredible 372 for two - the fifth highest total in a World Cup game - to trounce the Africans by 73 runs in Canberra.
On the heels of these performances, Williams believes the Windies are beginning to fire on all cylinders. While he praised the batting unit, he said the bowlers are also now starting to find their momentum.
"We always stress on roles and achieving our goals in the team. Lendl Simmons has been doing well for us also, he has a hundred and a fifty in another game ? (Denesh) Ramdin has been doing well and everybody has been chipping in and contributing, including (Darren) Sammy and (Andre) Russell," Williams explained.
"But I think we had a question mark over our bowling from the Ireland game and from since that (game), Jerome Taylor put up his hand, being the senior statesman and leading our attack. He's put up his hand and is doing a good job for us," he added.
Especially heartening for the West Indies camp has been the return to form of talisman Gayle. The usually prolific opener has struggled over the last 20 months, with just a half-century and an average of 14 to show for his efforts. However, he came big against Zimbabwe with a stunning 215 - the first double century in a World Cup and the fastest one ever - to end his worrying slump.
Together with Marlon Samuels, who hit a career-best 133 not out, they put on 372 for the first wicket - the highest partnership for any wicket in ODIs.
With Gayle in form, the West Indies will be even more confident of a positive result, and Williams said it was a plus seeing both Gayle and Samuels hit form at such a critical time in the tournament.
Bravo has been ruled out of consideration for the South Africa game, having failed to recover from a hamstring injury.