This is what a change of format can do to the West Indies. Up until a few days ago, the Caribbean side was getting its hind parts kicked at the hands of South Africa in the two-match Test series, which they ended up losing 2-0. Days later, as the over were reduced, the same team with different and older faces blew their tormentors out of water in the opening T20I.
Of course, South Africa did them many favours but the Windies, in the end, was a different class and got to the 161-run target with eight wickets and five overs to spare. They batted with such a relentless pace that they could have easily gotten to a 200-run target, had the Proteas managed to post that.
The scary part is that the backbone of Windies’ hard-hitting batting did not even get to flex their arms. Just Evin Lewis at the top did most of the damage as the likes of Chris Gayle took the back seat, while captain Kieron Pollard did not even get to bat.
On the evidence of the first T20I, South Africa have a tough series ahead. The Proteas have played several T20I series this year where they have had their hands full and eventually lost. But this is different.
This time they are at their full strength, with all their quality pacers fit and free from any league commitments. This is also pretty much the batting unit they plan (or planned) to carry into the T20 World Cup later this year. This was their Plan A or A-team but even that was ragdolled by their ruthless hosts.
That said, the start to their innings wasn’t entirely bad. In fact, in the 7th over, when Quinto de Kock departed, the score was 61-2 and the run rate was close to 10 an over. Then, they slowed down, and names such as Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller actually scored less runs than the balls they faced despite coming at fifth and sixth spots respectively where acceleration is the key.
While their batting was unimpressive but not outrightly poor, the bowling, supposedly their strength, was completely overmatched. Apart from Arnrich Noertje and Tabraiz Shamsi, everyone was taken for runs at an eyewatering rate.
Can they recover from such a flat performance? That depends on what kind of adjustments the Africans can make. Perhaps, playing an extra spinner could do the trick against a Windies unit that thrives against pace.