Hosts all but out

South Africa defeated West Indies by 67 runs, to all but ensure the hosts’ exit from the World Cup 2007. AB de Villiers was the hero for the Proteas, scoring his maiden century to help set a target which proved to be way out of reach. It was an important win for South Africa, especially after their shock defeat to Bangladesh in their previous match, ensuring that England will now have to play out of their skins to challenge them for the a spot in the semi-finals.

Having lost the toss and been put into bat, South Africa got off to a cautious start on a pitch that had a little bit of moisture, whiling away the first Power Play without any risks, especially after the loss of Graeme Smith in the seventh over. The skipper was dismissed when he tried to be too bold and came down the wicket to Corey Collymore. A thickish edge carried to the wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin, and the Proteas were 21-1.

Smith’s wicket was probably the only moment of glory throughout the innings for West Indies, as de Villiers and Jacques Kallis then put together a 170-run stand that set-up the following onslaught from the middle-order. Despite a couple of overs of being cautious, Kallis went on to improvise and thus dominate the bowling attack once the two opening bowlers were seen off. On the other hand, de Villiers was more fluent, even while defending the good deliveries.

The second Power Play, taken immediately after the first 10 overs, proved to be fatal for the West Indies, as it was that period of time when both the batsmen registered their intentions with thumping the bowlers, especially Dwayne Bravo all over the park. One of Bravo’s overs during the five-over period went for 18 runs, with Kallis hitting a lofted six, and a couple of classy boundaries off it.

Later in his innings Kallis twisted his angle while turning on the crease for a second run, and thenceforth it was evident that he was struggling a little with his running. Several chances were given to the West Indies, but they could not make good of any of them, clearly an evidence of their fielding being at low ebb. de Villiers, however, was bogged down by the problem of running between the wickets through Kallis’s injury. He was overtly aggressive on the bad balls, and accounted them all for boundaries through some brilliant shots.

Kallis finally fell in the 36th over with the team score at 191, clean bowled to Chris Gayle, for 81. It was probably for South Africa’s good that the wicket fell, since it brought Herschelle Gibbs to the middle, which despite an injury would, and did prove to, be more effective in big-hitting than a worn-out Kallis. Gibbs started a little slowly, and de Villiers was just about to cross his hundred, a maiden century, which is why the nest four overs went without any real excitement.

However, once de Villiers notched up the ton, in 112 balls, he shifted gears, scoring his next 46 runs in 19 balls. A lot of those runs came off excellently executed slog sweeps that cleared the boundary comfortably. The opener was finally dismissed for 146, when he tried to chip Collymore, who ended up being by far the best bowler through the innings with figure of 2-42, over the short fine leg fielder, but couldn’t get it through, and was caught by Shivnaraine Chanderpaul.

With the third Power Play remaining, there was always a danger than the Proteas would get to a score well above 300, but they went absolutely berserk, and ended up scoring 356, thanks largely to a 20-odd-ball half century, his second in the tournament, by Mark Boucher. Gibbs, who finished unbeaten on 61, provided good company, as the five-over period where fielding restrictions apply, went for 77 runs, the last over of which cost 26 runs that included four big ones. Boucher was dismissed in the final over, deceived by a slower ball from Bravo that resulted in a caught and bowled, but South Africa crossed the 350-run margin, thus setting the hosts a very difficult target.

It was always going to be difficult for the West Indies to chase down a score above 300, with the poor batting form the side has been in. It was imperative that the top order got off to a good start, even if it might not be at the required run rate. The key was keeping wickets in hand, and that is exactly what the hosts could not do. The South African bowlers picked up dismissals at a regular interval, thus ensuring that at no point of time their total was in danger of being chased down, even if the middle- and late-order had a dash at it.

Chanderpaul was the first to go, in the third over, trying to clear mid-off but not timing well, off Shaun Pollock. Smith was awaiting a simple catch, and that put the hosts right on the back foot from the start itself. Devon Smith tried to revive the innings after that early loss, striking the ball well through the first Power Play. His four exquisite boundaries took him to a score of 33 off just 27 balls, but his flamboyance got the better of him when he was caught in the covers by de Villiers off Andre Nel, in the 11th over.

Chris Gayle, who started slowly, was just about looking to switch gears and pose a danger, before he was unfortunately run out for 32 after a mix-up with Brian Lara, which was let gone by a direct hit from Ashwell Prince. Despite the three wickets having gone down with the score only at 69, the new batsman in, Ramnaresh Sarwan, did not get bogged down, and looked to attack the bowlers from the word go. Lara too looked in good touch, but he was soon dismissed, clean bowled off an inside edge to an off-cutter off the bowling of Jacques Kallis.

That realistically put West Indies out of the match taking away whatever chances they had left of reaching 357. Wickets continued to tumble one after the other, as Sarwan watched at the other end in between some brilliant batting on his part. Bravo was dismissed for just 6 off Pollock, and newcomer Kieron Pollard tried a bold shot coming down the wicket to only see his middle stump uprooted, being dismissed for just 10.

Sarwan kept fighting on in the lost cause, however, hitting 10 boundaries and a six in his innings of 92. He was dismissed short of a century though, when he was caught at mid-off off Makhaya Ntini, trying to clear the inner field. Despite being out of the match, West Indies did not succumb like a couple of previous times, with the tailenders holding up the crease until the 50 overs. Darren Powell in particular was impressive especially considering his average coming into the match was 2.66. He struck some massive blows off the off-spin of Smith, to end up at 48 not out. Collymore hit a six off the last ball of the 50th over, but West Indies still fell way short of their target, and unfortunately are now all but out of the World Cup they are hosting.

South Africa 356-4 in 50 overs
AB de Villiers 146 (130), Jacques Kallis 81 (86), Herschelle Gibbs 61* (40), Mark Boucher 52 (23)
Corey Collymore 2-41 (10)

West Indies 289-9 in 50 overs
Ramnaresh Sarwan 92 (75), Darren Powell 48* (36)
Shaun Pollock 2-33 (8), Jacques Kallis 2-36 (8)

South Africa won by 67 runs

Man of the Match: AB de Villiers 146 (130)

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