The World Test Championship final, which starts on the same day as this match, may be the most important fixture in the Test format but for West Indies and South Africa, it’s just about the last thing on their minds. At least, if you believe Dean Elgar.
Though acknowledging that “it’s going to be exciting”, Elgar admitted he has “not got a lot of interest in that fixture” because he is more concerned with South Africa attempting to win their first series on the road in more than four years.
Once the best travellers in the world game, South Africa spent nine years between 2006 and 2015 unbeaten in series away from home, but that has changed. Now, they have lost four away series in succession – in England, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan – and this is their opportunity to turn that around.
After a near-perfect performance in the first Test, Elgar has asked for more of the same and described his expectations as “stern and straightforward”. He still wants big hundreds, five-fors and for the senior players to step up.
West Indies will doubtless be after a change of fortune, having being completely outplayed in the first Test. The pre-series talk that the two teams were fairly evenly matched proved to be misplaced as the West Indies batters struggled against quality seam bowling in tough conditions and were then unable to cause the same problems for their opposition.
Putting on a better score will be their first goal after they were dismissed for 97, their lowest total against South Africa, but the bowlers will also be smarting to show their worth after being talked up as the stronger suit. Though they cannot win the series, West Indies can deny South Africa an eighth series win over them and fourth on the islands.
There will be an added incentive after the St Lucia government initiated a trial to admit fans for the game. A maximum of 400 spectators a day will be allowed into the Daren Sammy Stadium, providing they can show they have received two vaccine jabs prior to June 4.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LDDWW
South Africa WLLWW
In the spotlight
Given the seam-friendly conditions, West Indies may want to find room for another seamer and, if they do, it will be Shannon Gabriel. Alzarri Joseph, who sat out of the first Test, has been left out of the squad altogether for the second but Gabriel, who had a hamstring injury, has been recalled. West Indies have also added Darren Bravo, who last played a Test against New Zealand in December 2020, with Nkrumah Bonner ruled out with concussion. Kieran Powell made his comeback after more than two years as a concussion substitute for Bonner and his inclusion would allow Hope to take up a more familiar berth at No. 3.
West Indies: (possible) 1 Kraigg Braithwaite (capt), 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Shai Hope, 4 Roston Chase, 5 Kyle Mayers, 6 Jermaine Blackwood, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Joshua Da Silva (wk), 9 Shannon Gabriel/Rahkeem Cornwall, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Jayden Seales
Temba Bavuma’s fitness after he sat out with a hip injury in the first Test will be assessed at optional training on Thursday and if fit, he will displace Kyle Verreynne. South Africa are not expected to make any other changes.
South Africa: (possible) 1 Dean Elgar (capt), 2 Aiden Markram, 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Keegan Peterson, 5 Temba Bavuma/Kyle Verreynne, 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Wiaan Mulder, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Lungi Ngidi
Pitch and conditions
After a decent deck for bowling in the first Test, Elgar expects something similar for the second. A mitigating factor might be the wet weather in the lead-up to the Test which could result in a surface that Elgar said looks “a little bit softer” and which may have less even bounce. Concerningly, rain is forecast for every day of the match, with the most significant showers set to come at the weekend. There is a 60% chance of a downpour on Saturday, and 70% on Sunday.
Stats and trivia
“We have enough experience in the dressing room. Once we get our plans right, once we are patient and execute as well as we have been doing for the last few years. I don’t see why we can’t out-bowl the South African team.”
It’s still a battle of the bowlers, according to Kemar Roach who believes West Indies can match the visitors with ball in hand
“Clinical, ruthless, our bowlers led the pack and our senior players put their hands up. One Test win has done so much for us already. We need Test wins and we need series wins. I want a Test win and to seal the series 2-0.”
Dean Elgar sums up how South Africa won the first Test and hopes for more of the same in the second
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent