Both the teams have two wins, but South Africa is better placed because it secured bonus points on both occasions. If the West Indies wins, it will be tied on points with South Africa, but will qualify for the final by virtue of more matches won.
The tournament had started with Sunil Narine’s career-best returns of 6 for 27 in a four-wicket win for the West Indies over South Africa, but then the visiting side rode on Hashim Amla’s 110 to beat the home team by 139 runs in the return fixture.
South Africa could have avoided being in this situation had its last game against Australia not been washed out. Similarly, the West Indies squandered a chance in its previous clash against Australia. It was 31 for 3 when Marlon Samuels, who went to the top of the batting charts with a knock of 125, and Denesh Ramdin (91) put on 192 runs to take the West Indies to 282 for 8. Then, Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh added 122 runs to put Australia ahead before Glenn Maxwell’s 26-ball 46 took the side home with eight balls to spare.
The West Indies would be keen to capitalise on South Africa’s fickle record in do-or-die clashes. Charl Langeveldt, South Africa’s bowling coach, though said the team was looking forward to the challenge.
“The mood has been great. The two days off have given us a breather, conditions are warm here so if you practise every day you will get dehydrated and your energy will be low,” said Langeveldt. “Our big thing is to keep the energy levels high and to manage the players well.”
Imran Tahir has led South Africa’s bowling with 13 wickets – the most by any bowler in the competition. Equally impressive have been the pace bowlers, even though only Wayne Parnell features in the list of top ten wicket-takers.
“We are confident as an attack, especially the seamers. We have had the odd blip with the no-balls but that’s cricket, you are going to get that,” added Langeveldt. “The wides and no-balls have been a big improvement from the T20 World Cup where we were sloppy.”
The last time Langeveldt was at the venue was in 2005 when he took a hat-trick in the final over for an unlikely one-run win over the West Indies. As a bowling coach now, he was confident about the resources he had to get the job done.
“When I arrived I made it a conscious effort to [lift] our skills, especially in ODI and T20 cricket,” he said. “It has come up in leaps and bounds but it still remains a work in progress. In the nets I try to encourage the players to work on their various sets of skills. Hopefully in a few months we will get to a point where everyone has a different slower ball, everyone can bowl a slower ball bouncer, that is the ultimate.”
Batting, though, has been quite top heavy for AB de Villiers's men. In its second encounter against Australia, South Africa was comfortably placed at 210 for 3 in a chase of 289, but lost its last seven wickets for 42 runs to concede the game by 36 runs.
From the West Indies’ perspective, it has to seize key moments. Phil Simmons, the coach, was happy that several of his players have stood up to be counted so far. “A few players have to still come to the party but almost everyone has put their hand up so far this series and it’s great to see,” he said. He'll want more of the same as they try to give the home crowd a good enough reason to turn up for a Sunday final.
West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Jonathan Carter, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher, Shannon Gabriel, Sunil Narine, Ashley Nurse, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi.