Now Proteas brace for 'phantom foes'

Andile Phehlukwayo (AFP)
Andile Phehlukwayo (AFP)

Cape Town - South Africa, desperate to break their Cricket World Cup duck at the fourth attempt on Monday, may require elevated levels of reconnaissance - and vice versa - for the clash with West Indies.

That is because these sides have so seldom locked horns in one-day internationals in recent times: you might brand the Caribbean outfit phantom adversaries to them.

Almost exactly three years have gone by since they last met - three times in a Tri-Nations Series, also featuring Australia, on the islands in mid-2016 - and for a few years before that, meetings have also been scarce.

The Proteas ended up as odd ones out in that tournament, not cracking the final as the Aussies beat the host side to lift the trophy.

In the strictly bilateral encounters during it, the Windies ruled the roost 2-1; the key last one, in Barbados, was surrendered by South Africa by 100 runs.

West Indies posted 285 (Darren Bravo 102; Kagiso Rabada 3/31) and then the Proteas had a terrible frontline batting collapse, being reduced at one stage to 118 for eight and then 134 for nine.

Just a few blushes were spared as the unlikely last-wicket pair of Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, SA’s goose already well cooked, posted a half-century stand with the gangly paceman scoring 32 not out - second top-scorer to Farhaan Behardien’s 35.

The Proteas line-up in that last meeting between the teams included seven members of the current World Cup squad.

In the last six years or so, stretching back to 2013, there have only been a total of 10 bilateral tussles, five of them when West Indies last toured our shores in 2014/14 and the Proteas won by a resounding 4-1 margin.

South Africa have played most other major countries a lot more frequently in the 50-overs arena in that time.

But the period does include one World Cup meeting - at the last tournament in 2015, when the Proteas, then under AB de Villiers, played some of their most inspiring cricket of their campaign, pulverising the Windies by 257 runs at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

De Villiers was at his consummate best, thumping 162 not out off only 66 deliveries, as SA amassed 408 for five, before Tahir led the bowling assault with five for 45 as the reply (151 all out) never got beyond the ground.

The last time they played in “English” conditions - it was more precisely in Cardiff - was at the 2013 Champions Trophy, when the Duckworth/Lewis-influenced clash ended in a tie.  

There is a good likelihood, then, that both teams will be less knowledgeable about each other than many other competing countries at this World Cup for Monday’s duel.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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