Ex-Captain Jason Holder is hoping West Indies can exploit a South Africa in transition when the two teams meet in the two-Test series starting in St Lucia on Thursday, and believes runs will be key if the home side are to notch their first series win over the tourists in nearly three decades.
The Proteas are currently going through a rebuilding phase, having lost the likes of veteran batsmen A B de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis all to retirement, along with pace spearhead Dale Steyn who has also quit the longest format.
Holder said the loss of the experienced trio had resulted in a “big hole” in South Africa’s batting line-up, leaving the series to be determined by which team produces the superior batting effort.
“I think it will be a hard-fought series,” said Holder, the top-ranked all-rounder in Tests. “I think South Africa is in a transitionary phase where their bowling attack is very, very solid but [the loss of] A B de Villiers, Hashim Amla [and] Faf du Plessis have probably left a big hole in their experienced batting line-up.
“They’ve got a few youngsters coming in trying to make their mark as well, and likewise with us. I think this series will be won by the side that puts the runs on the board.”
He continued: “I think both bowling attacks are very, very solid. Our bowling attack in the Caribbean has proven to be one of the best bowling attacks.
“South Africa’s bowling attack…also does a really outstanding job for them so it pretty much balances off itself in terms of the bowling line-ups.
“My take is that this series will be won by the team who makes the most runs.”
West Indies have struggled against South Africa since the nation’s readmission to international cricket, winning just two of their 27 Tests inside the last 22 years.
The Caribbean side last faced South Africa in a Test series seven years ago, when they lost 2-0 in a three-match series after suffering heavy losses at Cape Town and Centurion.
Holder endured a rough tour, claiming only three wickets from 51 overs in two Tests. And on their last tour of the Caribbean nearly 12 years ago the visitors beat West Indies 2-0 in another three-Test rubber, with defeats at Bridgetown and Port of Spain.
With the two sides having not met in recent times and West Indies making an unbeaten start to the year, Holder said the upcoming series would be a critical one for West Indies.
“This series is a very big one and a very important one for us,” the 29-year-old pointed out. “I played against South Africa in my second and third Test matches. It was down in South Africa last time and we haven’t played them since then, so I’m really looking forward to this series.
“It’s obviously a big series for us; South Africa are a very, very good cricket side. We’re looking forward to it and I’m personally looking forward to it.”
Holder was on Thursday named in a 17-man provisional squad for the series, with selectors expected to further trim the squad to 13 on Monday.
The Barbadian was rested for the camp which has been under way here for the last three weeks and took no part in the four-day inter-squad match which ended Thursday, after arriving in St Lucia last weekend and undergoing a COVID-19 quarantine. One of West Indies’ most consistent performers with bat and ball in recent years, Holder said he was looking forward again to making a key contribution.
“One of the things that I pride myself in doing is enjoying what I am doing and making sure I contribute positively in every facet of the game,” said Holder.
“Obviously I’m an all-rounder and I’m asked to make runs and take wickets, so for me it’s whatever I can do to help the team win cricket games.”