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World Cup 2011 – South Africa vs West Indies: Tahir And de Villiers Star In Seven-wicket Win

By on February 24, 2011

South Africa 223 for 3 (de Villiers 107*, Smith 45, Pollard 1-37) beat West Indies 222 (Bravo 73, Tahir 4-41, Botha 2-48) by seven wickets…

AB de Villiers showed his pedigree with his second World Cup hundred, his 10th in all one-day internationals, and the fastest by a South African in a World Cup as South Africa chased down 223 at a canter at the Feroz Shah Kotla, the result sealed in the 43rd over for the loss of only three wickets.

De Villiers, who was named ODI Player of the Year for 2010, barely put a foot wrong in his knock, ticking along at better than a-run-a-ball from the start and sounding an ominous warning for South Africa’s opponents in this tournament. He shared in a decisive 119-run stand for the third wicket with Graeme Smith and shut down the game by adding a further 84 in JP Duminy’s company.

South Africa’s batsmen built upon the good work of their bowlers as Imran Tahir had a debut to remember, picking up four wickets and striking at crucial moments to peg West Indies back on a pitch that displayed none of the demons that led to the abandonment of the last international game at this ground in December 2009.

A new-look South African bowling unit kept a lid on a combustible West Indies, the spinners bowling a combined 29 overs for just 138 runs as West Indies imploded to be all out for 222 when, at one stage, 270 had seemed more likely. After the spinners had kept South Africa in control for much of the game, Dale Steyn returned at the death to ensure there would be no late fightback.

South Africa were in dire need of a counterpunch when de Villiers entered at the end of the fifth over with West Indies’ new-ball bowlers in the midst of an inspired opening spell. Hashim Amla, whose 1,322 runs in the year leading up to this World Cup has made him one of the vital cogs in South Africa’s one-day line-up, and Jacques Kallis both fell to sharp catches behind the wicket as Kemar Roach bowled with real pace and, continuing the trend already being set by other teams in this competition, left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn shared the new ball with success.

South Africa were 20 for 2 with that dismissal but, defying West Indies’ attempts to keep the pressure on, de Villiers appeared totally in control from the start of his innings. Threading the gap between cover and point on multiple occasions, he sprinted into the 20s at better than a-run-a-ball and South Africa were soon trundling along at well above the asking rate.

West Indies desperately needed another breakthrough and the talismanic Dwayne Bravo might have been just the man to provide it but in his third over a painful knee injury put an end to his contribution to his team’s defence. Attempting to change direction mid-follow through and cut off a drive from Smith, Bravo swivelled awkwardly and immediately fell to the ground, clutching his knee. The physiotherapist was called for and Bravo was helped from the field and taken to hospital for scans. The extent of the damage will not be known until the results of those tests are in.

South Africa marched confidently on in his absence, de Villiers bringing up a 54-ball fifty with a massive blow over wide long-on in the 22nd over and Smith providing steady support until he missed a straight one from Kieron Pollard and had his middle stump flattened five runs short of a half-century of his own. His departure sparked wild celebrations, and at 139 for 3 in the 29th over there was still a chance the chase could get tricky. There was barely a hint of nerves from Duminy and de Villiers, however, and after a short break for rain they eased South Africa home with minimum fuss, de Villiers reaching his ton from just 97 balls.

The chase might have been rather more challenging had West Indies’ batsmen been able to make more of the solid platform laid by Darren Bravo and Dwayne Smith, who helped their team weather the early departure of Chris Gayle with a 111-run partnership. Dwayne Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul showed some fight with a 58-run stand of their own but there was precious little support from the rest of the line-up.

The thoroughness of South Africa’s gameplans and their willingness to utilise unorthodox tactics was in evidence first in their decision to include no less than three frontline spinners in Johan Botha, Tahir and Robin Peterson and then when, for the first time in his career, Botha opened the bowling and soon snared Gayle with an edge to slip.

Bravo set the early tone with a couple of deftly glanced boundaries off Steyn and brought up a 55-ball 50 in the 16th over, his third in ODIs, and celebrating the milestone with a remarkable one-handed smite over long-on off Tahir. The century stand was brought up off 117 deliveries in the 20th over, and with West Indies starting to seize the initiative Smith turned to Botha.

Again the offspinner provided the breakthrough, slipping one past an uncertain flick to pin Bravo in front of middle and dismiss him for 73 despite a slightly desperate referral from the batsman. Tahir then took centre stage, holding a a simple caught-and-bowled chance off Smith for his first international wicket and removing Ramnaresh Sarwan before he had time to settle

Just as the elder Bravo and Chanderpaul were starting to flow a brainless piece of running put paid to their fightback. A reverse-sweep from Chanderpaul went straight to the man at short third man but inexplicably a run was called for and Bravo was easily run out for 40, the score 178 for 5 in the 38th over.

West Indies unravelled with alarming speed thereafter, their innings sliding swiftly into mediocrity after Chanderpaul, who had upped the tempo with a couple of thumping strikes, chipped Tahir straight to Peterson at long-off. Kieron Pollard’s arrival at the crease caused an immediate ripple of excitement among a decent crowd of spectators, but Steyn returned to dismiss him for a golden duck with a skidding inswinger that struck the pad in front of middle and leg. Tahir had his fourth wicket when a wild swipe from wicketkeeper Devon Thomas ended up in JP Duminy’s hands, running back from extra cover, and the tail proved no match for Steyn’s pace and accuracy as the innings was wrapped up soon afterwards.

Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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