Pollock signs off in style!

South Africa had the retiring Shaun Pollock (36*) and hard hitting Albie Morkel (28*) to thank for their four wicket victory over the West Indies in today’s Twenty20 fixture at Johannesburg. It was another relatively low scoring affair, in Twenty20 terms, but once again it proved a tight and entertaining encounter as these low scorers tend to be.

The pair were brought together with the score on 77-6, needing 55 more runs off 6.1 overs after the West Indies had made 131-7 in their allocation. Pollock gave the South Africans a demonstration in what they will be missing when he retires, while Albie Morkel suggested that his contributions down the order may be crucial for some time to come.

West Indies were inserted to bat on a track that was damp with the forecast looking fairly ominous, having had plenty of rain during the day. If Dwayne Bravo and his men were expecting to negotiate a little movement throughout the innings then they needed a rethink when the movement the South Africans found was immense, both through the air and off the track.

With such difficulties around for the batsmen it was no great surprise that the West Indies innings failed to get going at any point as wickets fell at a regular rate throughout the 20 overs.

It is one thing having a pitch that is very well suited for seam and swing bowling, but the old rules apply that you have to consistently put the ball in the right areas and South Africa achieved this, perhaps until towards the end when they will feel they let the West Indies off the hook a little.

Bravo was the pick of the West Indies batting, but was not top scorer, as the extras took that particular accolade. The extras were accumulated mainly in byes as the West Indies side struggled to put bat to ball towards the end and took on Mark Boucher’s throwing accuracy and with good effect, leaving the keeper visibly frustrated with proceedings.

Bravo struck two majestic and orthodox sixes down the ground, the first was lofted over long off effortlessly demonstrating a beautiful piece of timing off the spin of Justin Ontong. His second was slightly more belligerent over long on off the same bowler.

It appeared any score upwards of 130 would give the West Indies a decent chance, yet that score looked some way off at the halfway mark with the score at 48-3.

Darren Sammy and Jerome Taylor combined effectively for the eighth wicket enjoying a 30 run partnership in the final 2.2 overs.

South Africa’s reply got off to a terrible start when Taylor removed the ever dangerous Herschelle Gibbs in the opening over. The ball was angled in to Gibbs, then swung away appreciably and struck the opener’s off stump. It was again evidence that the ball was to continue moving around throughout the game, perhaps not ideal Twenty20 conditions, as the crowds flock to the grounds with the idea of continuously having to throw the players the ball back with a succession of maximums. Despite the lack of a high score, the game was equally absorbing.

AB De Villiers was looking in good touch, one particular crunching cover drive virtually left scorch marks on the outfield.

If Pollock and Makhaya Ntini gave a lesson in tight Twenty20 bowling and making the most of the conditions, then the West Indies bowling attack must not have been watching, regularly ruining good work done early in an over by trying something different towards the end and suffering the consequences. But still the West Indies seemed in pole position due to them picking up wickets and not allowing the South Africans to settle.

De Villiers, Duminy and Ontong all threatened to take the game from the visitors, but were all removed by Darren Sammy who did put in a disciplined display. What he lacks in pace he made up for today with clever variations in pace, bowling in good areas and having that wicket taking knack.

So it all came down to Pollock and Morkel and they still had plenty to do. With Bravo unfit to bowl, the fifth bowler was to be split between Marlon Samuels and Rawl Lewis and this was the opportunity you felt, for the South Africans to attack and assume control. Samuels first two overs went for only six runs but his third signalled the end for the West Indies.

Albie Morkel struck two powerful sixes over long on, firstly from Ravi Rampaul then off Fidel Edwards with what can be best described as short arm jabs, before Pollock did the same to Samuels in the penultimate over. The first one over square leg and the second beautifully executed down the ground, a further four from Morkel off Samuels over meant only two runs were needed in the final over.

From needing 43 off the last four overs, it was an unimaginable position South Africa now found themselves in. But there you go, that’s Twenty20 and a game can turn so quickly in this format.

Morkel completed the formalities in the last over slashing at a wide delivery from Edwards that flew down to the vacant third man area to complete a well earned victory, and a fitting way for Shaun Pollock to sign off in Twenty20 cricket. It was his experience both with bat and ball that may well have been the difference today and that certainly is irreplaceable.

West Indies 131-7 (20 overs)
Dwayne Bravo 24, Denesh Ramdin 19
Makhaya Ntini 2-22

South Africa 134-6 (19.2 overs)
Shaun Pollock 36*, Albie Morkel 28*, AB De Villiers 25
Darren Sammy 3-21, Jerome Taylor 2-29

South Africa won by four wickets

Cricket Web Man of the Match : Shaun Pollock

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