Hashim Amla seeks winning home captaincy start
Hashim Amla will be seeking a winning start when he captains South Africa for the first time in a home Test match when a three-match series against the West Indies starts at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.
Amla leapfrogged one-day international captain AB de Villiers to be given the Test captaincy following the retirement of long-serving Graeme Smith last season.
Under Amla`s leadership, South Africa gained away wins against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe earlier this year and his team will be strong favourites to continue the winning run against a West Indian side with modest credentials.
The West Indies have lost ten of 12 previous Tests in South Africa, managing just one win and one draw. They currently languish in eighth place on the International Cricket Council Test rankings, while South Africa are number one.
There are some question marks about the home side`s batting order, however, following the retirements of Smith and Jacques Kallis, their all-time leading run-scorer, while the reliable JP Duminy may miss the whole series because of a knee injury.
The opening pair of Alviro Petersen and Dean Elgar may be vulnerable against experienced West Indian fast bowlers Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor, with Petersen not having made a century in 23 previous Test innings, which have yielded only three fifties, while Elgar is a relative newcomer to the Test opening role.
Left-hander Stiaan van Zyl is expected to make his Test debut in place of Duminy at number six or seven.
South Africa still have world-class performers in Amla and De Villiers, who are expected at four and five, while the hosts have a powerful fast bowling attack in Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
On a pitch that usually favours fast bowlers, the West Indian bowling looks reasonable but a perennial problem for the tourists has been inconsistent batting.
With Darren Bravo missing for personal reasons and Chris Gayle because of injury, they are likely to rely greatly on Marlon Samuels, who hit a double century in a warm-up match last week, and the 40-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
South Africa (likely): Hashim Amla (captain), Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, Stiaan van Zyl, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Robin Peterson or Kyle Abbott, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
West Indies (from): Denesh Ramdin (captain, wkt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devon Smith, Leon Johnson, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jermaine Blackwood, Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Sheldon Cottrell, Assad Fudadin, Shannon Gabriel, Chadwick Walton (wkt).
Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZL), Aleem Dar (PAK)
TV umpire: Paul Reiffel (AUS)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)