Unfazed by their first Test defeat in Centurion, West Indies are seeking an improved performance, especially from their batsmen, as they look to win the second Test at the Wanderers starting Wednesday, and avoid their ninth straight Test series defeat to South Africa.
The Caribbean side found themselves in with a chance on the third day of the opening Test when they mowed the hosts down for 116 in their second innings, but the resulting target of 247 proved beyond West Indies, the run chase collapsing just after tea for 159, to leave them with an 87-run loss.
Vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood, who counter-attacked in a top score of 79, was the only batsman to pass 20 and was just one of two in the top six to reach double figures.
The underwhelming performance left captain Kraigg Brathwaite on Tuesday urging his batting group to show “clarity” in their approach.
“I think it shows we aren’t far off. Obviously South Africa is a tough team at home as normal, and it goes to show that with a little more application especially for the batters – myself included – we could do well here in these conditions,” Brathwaite said of the experience in the opening Test.
“It gave us that belief that we can do it and we’ve just got to keep believing, and it doesn’t matter which team we play in the world, we’ve always got to believe. We had a lot of positives in the first Test and we have to just keep improving.”
“Test cricket is all mental and it’s just to figure out how you want to score runs against each bowler. We got some dismissals [in the first Test] where balls were wide so it’s important to have the clarity to know which balls you want to play and which balls you want to leave, and that’s what batting is. It’s batting for long periods against world class bowling and knowing how you want to score [runs]. I think mentally we’ve got to be in that right place to firstly believe we can do it – believe we can bat and score runs. And then it’s to do it. We’ve got to do it. It’s as simple as that,” he added.
West Indies will have to cope with the threat of spin after South Africa drafted 33-year-old left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj and 34-year-old off-spinner Simon Harmer into the final XI.
Fast bowler Anrich Nortje, who grabbed five wickets in the first innings at Centurion, has been sidelined due to injury, and has been replaced by fast bowling all-rounder Wiaan Mulder while another seamer Marco Jansen has been left out.
Brathwaite said even without Nortje, South Africa’s attack remained potent and called on his batsmen to back their plans.
“I wouldn’t say it (Nortje’s absence) affects us. Obviously we know he’s a world class bowler who has some pace and I think whoever comes in for them … those guys are obviously good bowlers.
“We would’ve seen some footage, a few of the guys have played against them already and as I said, it’s important we know how we want to go about it. We [should] know how we want to score our runs, we [should] know how we want to get singles, rotate the strike, be aggressive to which bowler – it’s important we take these plans into the game,” Brathwaite said.
“Obviously a game, it involves a lot of pressure [because] you’re playing Test cricket, and it’s important to do it when you’re under pressure. It’s never easy but we can do it and I’m backing the guys 100 per cent.”
West Indies boast a dire record against the Proteas, having won only one of their last 11 Tests over the last 16 years.
But having taken 20 wickets in Centurion last week, Brathwaite believes his side see a way to end the losing streak.
“I think that would be great [to square the series]. I think it was very good for us as a bowling group to get 20 wickets [at Centurion]. I thought that was very important,” he said.
“The first two sessions on the first day, we were a bit too expensive and obviously that cost us a bit with South Africa getting a big first innings total.
“And as a batting unit we’ve got to improve. We’ve obviously got to spend more time [in the middle]. South Africa will come hard no matter the XI they play so we have to be up for it.”
Play gets underway at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. Eastern Caribbean time).
SOUTH AFRICA (XI) – Temba Bavuma (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Tony de Zorzi, Ryan Rickelton, Heinrich Klaasen, Wiaan Mulder, Simon Harmer, Keshav Maharaj, Gerald Coetzee, Kagiso Rabada
WEST INDIES – Kraigg Braithwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Alick Athanaze, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Akeem Jordan, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Gudakesh Motie, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Devon Thomas. (CMC)