The highly anticipated ODI series between West Indies and South Africa got under way on a Saturday morning at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.
The match was monumental for the stadium’s future as it had last hosted a Test match between West Indies and England in 2009, which was abandoned with only 10 balls being bowled. So, North Sound was indeed a happy place to be in, even as South Africa won both the T-20 internationals against the hosts.
And yet again, South Africa didn’t disappoint at all. A comprehensive win by 66 runs was a fitting reply to those critics who questioned Graeme Smith’s captaincy, which was said to be ruining South African cricket. The match began with Chris Gayle, the West Indies captain, having won the toss and elected to field first on a damp wicket due to rain before the start of the game. South Africa lost two huge wickets of their captain and Jacques Kallis in a span of 10 overs.
However, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers had some other ideas. The pair put up a 129-run partnership for the third wicket, in the process registering identical scores of 102. West Indies bowled well in bits and pieces, picking seven wickets with Dwayne Bravo picking 3/40 in 10 overs.
But South Africa was in the driver’s seat after posting 280 runs in 48 overs of batting. During their chase, West Indies didn’t look like a team on a mission to prove that their performance in the World T-20 was a few bad days in the office. They didn’t bat with their hearts out with the team losing Andre Fletcher early.
The captain, Chris Gayle and Bravo, batting at No.3, were on course of winning the match for the hosts until Bravo fell in the 8th over itself, falling to a rash shot rather than good bowling by Ryan McLaren. And worse, Gayle’s dismissal followed in the 13th over, after playing an impatient shot of Morne Morkel.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and Narsingh Deonarine put up a 4th wicket partnership, which was slow enough to allow the rest of the batting line-up to crumble under pressure in the last over. Charismatic all-rounder Kieron Pollard hit a quick-fire 44, but the team succumbed to some good South African bowling as they were bundled out for 215 in a mere 44.1 overs, with Morne Morkel picking up 3/40 in 8 overs which included the wicket of the West Indian captain.
Hashim Amla was the man-of-the match for his fine 102 which led the foundation of a big total to post for the South Africa.
It was the same old story again in the 2nd ODI at the same venue. This time, South Africa won the toss and elected to bat first. Captain Graeme Smith was looking to finally get back into form, until he was bowled by West Indies spinner Nikita Miller.
However, that didn’t demoralize the South Africans as it was once again, the wall of South Africa, Hashim Amla who played well for his 92 at an impressive strike-rate of 96.84. South Africa had good, quick partnerships to get exactly 300 runs in 50 overs. Kallis, also with a half-century alongside AB de Villiers and David Miller took advantage of Amla’s foundation innings to put South Africa in a winning position at the innings break.
West Indies didn’t learn from their poor chase in the last match and faltered again. It was a slow start from the West Indies with Gayle getting out first in the 11th over. And it looked like it was all over at 236/7 in 44 overs, when Bravo fell for a well-deserved 74. However, Darren Sammy put up a brave fight which made even the critics of the West Indies believe that they could win from a precarious position, with just 6 overs to go!
A flurry of outstandingly-struck sixes helped Sammy score 58 runs of only 24 balls. This is the only positive that West Indies can take from this match which they narrowly lost by 17 runs, and as a result 0-2 down in a 5 match series, which means that they have to win all of the next 3 matches to win the series.
Hashim Amla was yet again the man-of-the-match, but West Indies have certainly found a third all-rounder in the team in Darren Sammy who scored the fastest fifty for the West Indies in ODI cricket, ahead of greats such as Brian Lara, Vivian Richards and his captain, Chris Gayle! No matter whether the first 2 ODIS have been bad for the hosts, yet the increasing quality of cricket played in this series makes the last three matches a lot more exciting.
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