Another Amla century pilots Proteas to last ball win – Digicel ODI Cricket Report
West Indian hearts were once again broken at Windsor Park. But on this occasion, victory for South Africa seemed, as usual, inevitable until an almost miraculous last over from Dwayne Bravo for whom hope evaporates only after the last ball, never before.
West Indies, put together a collective batting effort and made their best score of the Digicel Series yet – 303 for 6 from 50 overs. South Africa’s run chase resembled more of a stroll in the park for all but one over. At the end of the 49th over, they had reached 301 for 3 with AB de Villiers on 55 and Jean Paul Duminy on 32. Three runs were needed for victory from the last six deliveries.
Bravo’s first delivery resulted in a single to de Villiers. Two to win from five balls. The next delivery allowed a leg bye. Scores tied. One to win from four balls. Bravo rushed in and delivered the next three deliveries just wide enough outside off stump to be out of reach of de Villiers but close enough to remain legitimate deliveries.
It came down to the last ball. The crowd all tiptoed in anticipation.
de Villiers plunked the ball to short mid wicket where Darren Sammy was stationed.
His was a subplot all by itself. Sammy – the almost saviour of the Windies in the Second Digicel ODI in Antigua when he nearly blitzed the Windies to victory with the fastest West Indian ODI fifty ever – hadn’t the best of days on a cricket field. He was bowled first ball when he batted, delivered seven wicketless overs for 34 runs and had given away seven careless runs in overthrows.
It was the worst person on the field for the ball to find. de Villiers might be keen to argue that he picked his man perfectly. With hard hands, Sammy fumbled twice and could not effect a run out at the non-striker’s end as the batsmen bolted through for the winning single; de Villiers and Duminy appeared more relieved than celebratory.
South Africa took their fourth straight win, this time by seven wickets as they closed on 304 for 3 with de Villiers 57 not out and the other not out batsman – Duminy – on 32.
The Proteas run chase was set on course by the heavily bearded right handed opener, Hashim Amla, who made an authoritative century – his second of the Digicel Series and the third of his 28 match ODI career. He has been feasting on West Indies bowling since the First Digicel ODI when he starred with 102.
Amla’s run tally for the series now stands at 357 at an average of 89.25 as he dominated the Windies bowlers with scores of 102, 92, 34 and 129. Amla’s formula did not change. He played positively, punished loose deliveries, focused on singles, ran hard and stroked the ball along the ground.
Ever the workhorse, Jacques Kallis scored 51 and featured in a 119 run partnership with Amla for the second wicket while Amla had already put on 59 for the opening stand with Graeme Smith (23).
The Windies bowlers toiled with little result as the South Africans paced their innings immaculately with the obvious strategy being that most basic one – keep wickets in hand for a burst in the latter stages if necessary. They batted well enough and built such solid partnerships at the top that a full out burst was not even necessary.
Bravo nearly upset their applecart but the equation was too in favour of the visitors for even a miracle worker like him to have orchestrated what would have been a stunning rearguard victory. Their fans – thousands upon thousands of them – deserved it, the team perhaps less so given that they have not played well for the entirety of any game of the Digicel Series.
The West Indies can thank four men – all using very contrasting styles – for their total. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was in familiar mode – anchor of the innings. He faced 89 balls, struck three fours, had the lowest strike rate of any West Indian batsman but top scored with 66. Like their Head Coach, Ottis Gibson, had been pleading for, the others batted around him.
Richards drove with command and authority but was respectful of deliveries that demanded more cautious treatment. The Barbadian right hander made 59 – his second half century in three matches – as he continues to play an angel of mercy role for the Windies who have been having a disastrous time at the top of the order prior to his arrival.
Dwayne Bravo batted like the senior pro he is considered in the team, getting 46 from 51 balls with two fours and a six as he and Chanderpaul marshalled the middle overs, rotating the strike with singles and forcing the occasional boundary as was necessary.
In the latter overs, the other Bravo, Darren, showed off his class and superior skill in cleanly blasting an unbeaten 45 from 31 deliveries with three fours and a six. The Brian Lara carbon copy left hander, was aided by Kieron Pollard’s 18 ball 26 (1×4, 2×6).
At the interval the Windies – not unlike how they were in previous games – had to have been confident but one of their key bowlers was missing. Jerome Taylor has a niggling injury and, with the Digicel Series already lost, the decision was taken to rest him. Another crucial cog in the bowling wheel – Sulieman Benn – only bowled four overs for 22 runs before he left the field, never to return.
The Windies were hampered badly and the South African batsmen – Amla foremost among them – made hay. Victory seemed certain until Bravo intervened in the last over but it was too far gone for even he to have hauled it back in the Windies favour.