West Indies will be 'Test match ready' while Proteas continue T20 schlep

Kagiso Rabada is among a host of Proteas players who will participate in the Major League Cricket tournament before switching their focus to Test cricket in the West Indies next month.
Kagiso Rabada is among a host of Proteas players who will participate in the Major League Cricket tournament before switching their focus to Test cricket in the West Indies next month.
Image: Pankaj Nangia/Getty Images

The West Indies begin a three-match Test series against England on Wednesday which, regardless of the outcome, will give them an advantage before the two Tests against the Proteas next month. 

While the West Indies will be well up to speed with the Test format, by contrast, a large chunk of the 16 South African players named in the Test squad on Monday are either playing in the Major League Cricket T20 tournament in the US or not at all. Only David Bedingham, Wiaan Mulder and Matthew Breetzke are contracted on the county circuit. 

At least that trio will have some first class matches under the belt and in Bedingham’s case, excellent form. Proteas coach Shukri Conrad said in a chat he had with Bedingham last week he told him to “save some runs for us”, after the 30-year-old surged to the top of the County Championship Division One run scorer’s list with an aggregate of 926 runs in 14 innings for Durham. 

He has made five centuries and two half-centuries in that sequence, proving the decision to call him up for the Test squad last summer was overdue. 

Bedingham’s form will be crucial, given he has rhythm in the longer format, something the MLC contracted players and those in South Africa will need to achieve through training camps and the sole warm-up match the squad will have in Trinidad before the first Test, which starts on August 7.

“We have the luxury of a warm-up game and we have 10 days in Trinidad before the first Test,” said Conrad. 

Preparation for previous series against the West Indies and India last year were less than a week, so Conrad’s excitement about having 10 days is understandable.

“You have to roll with the punches, this is the modern world. I’m comfortable that guys in America can take the flight across and we have a week’s preparation before the first Test. It is what it is and we will make it work.”

The build-up to the first Test between the West Indies and England that starts at Lord’s on Wednesday has been dominated by Jimmy Anderson, who is playing his 188th and final Test. That has helped overshadow the threat the West Indies pose, particularly with the ball. 

Though robbed of Kemar Roach, who was ruled out of the series with a knee injury, the West Indies still field a potent pace bowling trio in Jayden Seales, Alzarri Joseph and young sensation Shamar Joseph. The latter inspired the West Indies to their memorable victory over Australia in Brisbane earlier this year taking 7/68 in the second innings of that match. 

“They have a nice [set] of fast bowlers and having won in Australia they will have added confidence,” said Conrad. 

He had a first-hand look at Seales and Joseph last season when the pair toured South Africa with a West Indies A team, so there will be no surprises there. Much like England will have noted in their preparation, the West Indies’ batting isn’t as strong. 

“There might be some frailties in the batting department that we can expose and exploit,” said Conrad. 

The main frailty is inexperience. Among the batters, three haven’t played a Test, while three others — Kavem Hodge, Alick Athanaze and Kirk McKenzie — have a combined nine Tests between them. 

They will be heavily reliant on captain Kraigg Brathwaite, former skipper Jason Holder, who wasn’t in Australia because he was contracted to the International League T20 in the UAE at the time, and wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva for their runs.


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