South Africa v West Indies: Proteas on the ropes ahead of Southampton showdown
While it may feel as if the Cricket World Cup is just starting to warm up, South Africa must fear they are already in danger of being left out in the cold in the battle to reach the knockout stages.
Monday's meeting with West Indies in Southampton appears to be make or break for Faf du Plessis' squad following three straight defeats. Lose another in the round-robin section and their hopes of progressing look bleak at best.
The Proteas were no match for hosts England in the tournament opener and while losing to India in their most recent outing was hardly a surprise, the setback against Bangladesh sandwiched in between those two games has left them still without a point to their name.
With six fixtures remaining, they know they must turn around their campaign - and fast.
However, West Indies are not a team you want to face when you're up against it. Batting was seen as their stronger suit coming into the event, yet their quick bowlers have been the ones to catch the eye in their two outings to date.
Utilising the short ball superbly, they roughed up Pakistan in a one-sided victory and then had Australia on the ropes at 38-4, only for Steve Smith and Nathan Coulter-Nile to engineer a recovery for the reigning world champions.
West Indies will feel they missed an opportunity against Australia, when they fell 15 runs short in their chase, but may relish the chance to land a potential knockout blow on a fragile South Africa team just desperate to stay alive.
The boys will keep fighting with everything they've got.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) June 7, 2019
Why? Because they're South African. There's still hope with 6 games to play. Next up, West Indies. Monday, 11.30am. #ProteaFire#ItsMoreThanCricketpic.twitter.com/h9spMl7gYh
TOURNAMENT SO FAR
Things have not gone to plan so far for the Proteas, who must decide whether to stick or twist when it comes to selection. The media focus on the absent AB de Villiers - who was ready to make a return to international duty, only to be overlooked by the selectors - has not helped.
South Africa failed to chase down totals in excess of 300 in their first two outings, yet batting first failed to result in a turnaround in their fortunes against India on Wednesday.
As for West Indies, they pummelled Pakistan and came up just short against Australia, with both of their games taking place at Trent Bridge.
It will be interesting to see if a similar tactic of short-pitched bowling works so effectively at a different venue, particularly one where India's spinners prospered against South Africa.
WHAT THEY SAID
"It's [India] a game that I really hoped that we would win. There was a lot on that game. It was going to give us some breathing space. So now we've just got a stiff challenge ahead of us, but we're ready to stand up, rise up to it." - South Africa quick Kagiso Rabada.
"We are obviously confident, but we have to respect South Africa as well. They are a good side. They have lost three games. We know they have got world-class players so we can't underestimate their ability and we have to go out and play hard and smart cricket and stick to our game plans." - West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick.
- South Africa and West Indies have split the last four ODIs between the teams, though the latter won the most recent fixture, in June 2016, by 100 runs.
- The Proteas have claimed victory in four of their six matches against West Indies at the World Cup, including their previous three encounters.
- Shai Hope has reached 50 on 16 occasions in ODIs since the start of 2017, including a knock of 68 last time out against Australia.