CRICKET NEWS - St Lucia, the venue for the first Test between the Proteas and West Indies starting on Thursday, is a typically beautiful tropical island but it also has very unpredictable weather.
As pace bowler Lungi Ngidi said on Tuesday: “It’s tricky conditions, similar to Durban in terms of humidity and heat, but it’s also very windy and the overhead conditions seem to change every 30 minutes.
“It goes from scorching heat to pouring rain very quickly and you never know what to expect.”
So what must the Proteas do to ensure the first Test in the two-match series goes well for them? We take a look.
Make every moment count
The three previous Tests played at Gros Islet in June have all ended in draws, and they have all been interrupted at crucial times by rain. St Lucia is heading into its wet season now and, as the Proteas have already discovered, the rain can be pretty intense.
There will always be high temperatures and humidity though, and, being an island stuck out practically in the Atlantic ocean, the north-easterly trade winds are strong and consistent. So everything the Proteas do, whether with bat or ball, is going to have to be done with some urgency. They cannot allow the West Indians to settle into their groove.
Slip in the short ball often
Although the pitch at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium is not as quick as the Wanderers or SuperSport Park, it is not nearly as sleepy as so many of the Caribbean tracks.
As Ngidi has noted, there is bounce on offer, so the Proteas fast bowlers must definitely slip in the odd bouncer just to keep the batsmen on their toes.
Consider swing as a weapon
While bowling coach Charl Langeveldt likened the conditions to England and there will certainly be seam movement, the old Beausejour Stadium is famous for being a venue where swing is on offer.
While every paceman will probably allege they are a swing bowler as well, Rabada, Nortje and Ngidi are not known for moving the ball sideways through the air much.
Left-armer Beuran Hendricks is probably the best swing bowler in the squad, but playing him would mean leaving out a spinner or batting Keshav Maharaj at seven, neither of which is likely. It’s why Wiaan Mulder is tipped to play as an all-rounder.
The batsmen must use the friendly amenities
For all the talk about what will assist the bowlers, the Gros Islet pitch also offers friendly amenities for batsmen. The Proteas don’t have to worry about there being much turn, even in the closing stages, although inconsistent bounce could become a feature towards the end of the game.
It will certainly be desirable for South Africa to put big runs on the scoreboard in the first innings.