Fired-up West Indies target South Africa in World Cup cricket
SYDNEY, Australia (CMC):
A buoyant West Indies will try to defy a run of recent poor results and extend their winning streak when they take on South Africa in another crucial Group B match in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup tonight at 10:30 p.m. at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Only last month, the Caribbean side was completely outplayed by the Proteas on African soil, battered 4-1 in a five-match one-day international (ODI) series where they appeared out of their depth at times.
The one-wicket win in Port Elizabeth last month was the first time West Indies had beaten South Africa in an ODI in nine years. And 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.
Importantly, however, the West Indies 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.
Against Pakistan, they amassed 310 and then wiped out their opponents for 160. 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.
Coach Stuart Williams 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," Williams pointed out.
"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 mindset and we're prepared," Williams said.
"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."
While he praised the batting unit, he said the bowlers were now starting to find their momentum."
Poor performances recently
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.
Williams also feels more comfortable with their bowling.
"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 added: "From the Ireland game, it was good to see how the guys responded. I think it showed character. All of the senior guys stuck together - Darren Sammy, (Chris) Gayle, Marlon (Samuels) - and said 'guys, we can do this. Ireland was just a little blip. We're going to come back.' I'm just happy for the way the guys have responded since the Ireland game."