South Africa got off to a good start under their new leader, and new coaching staff. Of course, their captain Temba Bavuma, didn’t have a happy start as he suffered a pair on his captaincy debut, the fourth to suffer this fate.
It was the openers who set it up for them in the first innings. Aiden Markram, making a comeback registered a superb century and Dean Elgar, alongside him ended the innings with a well-made 71. However, the rest of the batters got starts, but didn’t convert into a big one.
Well! That wasn’t the case with the bowlers. In both the innings, their pacers collective performances were too hot for the West Indian batters. Anrich Nortje in the first innings dismantled them with a five-for, and Kagiso Rabada in the second with a six-for.
Despite making a comeback with the ball, West Indies failed to seize the opportunities in the first Test. In the first innings, South Africa were 221/1 and they managed to skittle them out inside 350. Even after conceding a lead of 130 runs, West Indies were in the hunt after they reduced them to 116 in the second innings. A target of 247 was achievable. Once again, their batters failed miserably.
Beating South Africa in their backyard is definitely hard, but it is not impossible. However, it all depends on their batters.
Ahead of the second Test, South Africa are struck with an injury blow. Nortje has been ruled out of the second Test, owing to a mild groin discomfort.
Things to watch out for
A formidable fast bowling line up
South Africa is known for producing some exceptional fast bowlers, and history says it all. Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, and more from the past. Now, Rabada, Nortje, Marco Jansen, to name a few.
In Tests since 2022, their pacers have picked up 152 wickets at a strike rate of 43.2 and an average of 25.4. Among all the teams, their strike rate is the best. In this period, among pacers who have bowled 100+ overs, Rabada has scalped a wicket every 35 balls, the best, Nortje has a wicket every 38 balls, the second best and Jansen’s balls/wicket ratio of 40.5 is the fourth best.
With three of their prime bowlers in top five, it doesn’t come as a surprise as to why South Africa top the list.
Can Markram convert his potential into reality?
Nine years ago, a prodigy emerged in the Under-19 stages. With 370 runs at an average of 123.3, Markram carried South Africa to their first Under-19 WC title in 2014. And now, the same prodigy is still trying to make a mark.
After a sedate start to his Test career, it never took off the way everyone thought it would. In his first two years, he averaged 43.8 in 24 innings with four centuries. Then came the great downfall. From 2019 till 2022, in 20 matches, he couldn’t even score 1000 runs. He averaged only 27.3. A series of failures saw him being dropped for the 2022/23 away tour to Australia.
The revival has been fruitful so far. In his comeback Test, he scored 115 in the first innings and 47 in the second, the highest scorer in both the innings. The question now, can he keep up the consistency?
Joseph finding his groove in Test cricket
Similar to Markram, the West Indies also have one player who is trying to make a mark in Test cricket. But, the difference is that Alzarri Joseph, has already cracked the Test game code.
From his debut till 2021, Joseph had 40 wickets at an average of 39.95 and a strike rate of 70.4. However, since 2022, he has bettered those numbers.
In 20 innings, the lanky fast bowler has picked up 39 wickets at an average of 27.9 and an improved strike rate of 47.5. In the first Test, he bagged his first five-wicket haul as well.
Pitch and conditions
The Wanderers is another venue where batting isn’t going to be easy, so is the case in almost all venues in South Africa. In any case, compared to few other venues, it is slightly better.
In Tests since 2018, batting teams have averaged 26.4 in six Tests. In this time period, only at St George's Park, the batting average is better (27.2). But, there is a twist. In the first two innings of the match, batting teams have scored at an average of 25.1, the lowest among all venues. Whereas, while batting in third and fourth innings, the average is better (28), the best among all. In all the six matches played here since 2018, all have chosen to bat first and have won four.
93.5 percent of the wickets have been bagged by the pacers. In Tests since 2018, In venues where pacers have bowled in 10+ innings, in no other venue has pacers bagged more wickets than Johannesburg. They have bowled 89.1 percent of the overs, which is also the most.
-In Tests since 2022, out of the 39 wickets bagged by Joseph, 10 have come off back of a length delivery, and three from short balls (10m+). He has an average of 27.7 and a strike rate of 48.3. In the first Test as well, his four wickets have come from these lengths. Arguably, this will be his go to length in the second Test as well, especially with South Africa struggling against pacers on these lengths. In the first Test, South Africa batters lost eight wickets to these lengths.
-In both the innings, Elgar was dismissed to short balls (10m+), and both were against Joseph. Both his dismissals came when he attempted a ramp shot. In the first Test, he averages seven against the short balls. In Tests since 2022, he averages 7.3 against this length.
South Africa have made four changes to their XI. Marco Jansen, Senuran Muthusamy, Keegan Petersen and Anrich Nortje miss out, while Ryan Rickelton, Wiaan Mulder, Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer have been brought in.
South Africa Probable XI: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Tony de Zorzi, Temba Bavuma (c), Ryan Rickleton, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Wiaan Mulder, Simon Harmer, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Gerald Cotzee
The visitors might go in with the same eleven, which is their strongest.
West Indies Probable XI: Kraigg Brathwaite (c), Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Raymon Reifer, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Kyle Mayers, Joshua Da Silva (wk), Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel