South Africa begin their Elgar era

Quinton de Kock was always clear that he did not fancy the gig as South Africa’s full-time Test captain and he was true to his word, with Dean Elgar the man selected to lead their rebuild.

It’s been a turbulent period for the Proteas, who have won just three of their last 13 Tests, two of which came in a home series against Sri Lanka earlier this year.

Considering that they have also lost nine consecutive Test matches on their travels, a trip to West Indies looks daunting.

But a turnaround is never as far away as it might seem, and Elgar has enough talent at his disposal to begin to rebuild a competitive side.

The skipper himself joins Aidan Markram, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock in a batting line-up that is capable of better, while Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi form a young pace attack that South Africa can count upon for years to come.

West Indies can continue upward trajectory

But while the visitors may see a trip to the Caribbean as an opportunity, West Indies will view this series as a fantastic chance of their own.

The hosts have won three of their last seven Test series, including a standout 2-1 victory over England in 2019, and were also competitive in the UK last summer, winning the first Test before losing the series 2-1.

Considering that they had only beaten Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in their 21 previous series, that is a clear improvement.

Jason Holder’s side now sit above South Africa in the Test rankings and another landmark series victory here would cement their upward trajectory towards the top of the game.

The battle of the pace attacks

Both sides’ hopes of victory lie largely with their pace attacks.

West Indies’ recent improvement can be attributed to a four-man pace attack of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph, the first three of whom are ranked in the top 25 bowlers in the world and one of whom (Holder) is ranked eighth.

All four of the pacers have taken at least 23 wickets in their last 10 matches, and will fancy their chances against a South Africa line-up that has struggled for runs.

The same can be said of the opposition, though. Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje are still yet to truly fire as a trio, but surely will do soon.

Rabada is South Africa’s eighth-highest all-time Test wicket-taker having just turned 26, Nortje has taken 20 wickets in his last four Tests and 25-year-old Ngidi came to life with seven in the two home Tests against Sri Lanka over Christmas and New Year.

The unit that clicks best will likely clinch the series for their side.

All eyes on conditions

After both West Indies v Sri Lanka Tests in March petered out to draws, all eyes will be on whether conditions favour a result here.

The cricket in Antigua was slow, with run rates low and a result a long way off after five days of cricket on both occasions.

More entertainment would be ideal, and the St Lucia surface at the Darren Sammy Stadium should provide that.

Three of the last four Tests there have produced results, with England’s Mark Wood generating plenty of pace to knock over the hosts in the last one in February 2019.

Two quick bowling attacks and a spicy pitch will hopefully produce some fast-moving, exciting cricket in this series.

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