Right after a successful World Twenty-20 Championship, West Indies will be hosts to the touring South Africans. To kick off the tour, South Africa plays West Indies in 2 Twenty-20 internationals.
Both teams have few things in common. Firstly, both are in the T-20 mode following the IPL and World T-20. Secondly, both the teams were knocked out unceremoniously from the World Championship in the Super 8s round. Thirdly, both have a point to prove as they look to get back to their winning ways.
North Sound in Antigua has been decided to host both the T-20 internationals. The first T-20 has had a huge hype following criticism in South Africa over the team’s recent performance, including calls for Graeme Smith to quit as captain.
The surprising exclusion of Mark Boucher, making AB de Villiers the wicketkeeper, was also not received well by many of their fans and critics. On the other hand, West Indies too were feeling the heat with their knock-out in the world championship, being the hosts of the tournament.
Some of the selections were baffling and as a result, losses must have put Chris Gayle, the captain under pressure ahead of the first T-20 international.
However, Gayle had some luck at the toss when he had a choice and decided to bowl first on a slow surface. After the early loss of opener Loots Bosman, South Africa tried to gain some momentum with a 73-run second wicket partnership between the experienced duo of the captain Smith and Jacques Kallis.
However, the team suffered after the fall of Kallis in the 16th over. None of the batsmen were able to stay at the crease, and score at a fast rate. This allowed the hosts to come back into the match in the last five overs as South Africa finished at 136/7 in 20 overs. Kemar Roach and Kieron Pollard picked two wickets each for the West Indies.
However, South Africa had an unsung hero in Ryan McLaren. McLaren, best known for playing a crucial role in helping the Mumbai Indians enter the final of the IPL this year, picked a staggering 5 wickets for just 19 runs in 3.5 overs which included the wicket of his teammate in the Mumbai team, Kieron Pollard.
Apart from the dangerous Pollard, none of the West Indies batsmen tried to attack. As a result, South Africa prevailed easily by 13 runs, which did lead to some cooling down of the temperament of the South African fans who had nearly lost hope in their team. On the other hand, West Indies had some work to do before the second T-20 international at the same ground, the next day.
The next match turned out to be a cracker! Again, West Indies won the toss and had a bowl in similar conditions the day before. South Africa batted poorly, in fact much worse than the last game, putting up a mere 120/7 in 20 overs. The score could have been lower had the debutant David Miller not fired and off-spinner Johan Botha not contributed down the order.
Jerome Taylor made a comeback for the West Indies and did a splendid job by picking 3 wickets for 16 runs in 4 overs. However, what the West Indies might have not realized is that South Africa has not just a good pace attack but also a spin attack.
And Botha had not finished. He picked 3 important wickets with the ball, those of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard and Ramnaresh Sarwan. West Indies, and not South Africa was choked in the end as South Africa held their nerve to win by the narrowest of margins batting first.
By a mere 1 run. South Africa played reasonably well in both the matches, considering the pressure that they were facing. On the other hand, West Indies only became more weakened and demoralized ahead of the one-day series, which could have a huge impact on the entire tour.
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