West Indies win at wire
One moment the tension was almost unbearable. The next, Sabina Park was the scene of sheer pandemonium.
Yes, the West Indies had pulled off another victory against South Africa, to the delight of a packed ground that took on an electrifying atmosphere for most of the day.
The final stages were heart-stopping and when it was over, the West Indies were celebrating a last-ball victory in the first of the seven Cable & Wireless One-Day Internationals.
One could hardly hear the sound of a dropped pin as Allan Donald sprinted in to Ridley Jacobs for the final ball of a fascinating contest that featured superb fielding throughout.
West Indies, crippled by a late innings hiccup after seemingly on course for a straightforward target of 201 from 50 overs, found themselves relying on their dependable vice-captain.
Like the champion fast bowler that he is, Donald opted for a ball of fullish length, but the line was off. It was outside the off-stump and the Jacobs slashed a drive that raced across the outfield and down to the backward point boundary. The fielder on the third-man boundary was well beaten.
As the ball crossed the line, the large contingent of police spread all the way around the ground could do nothing to stop the inevitable invasion from scores of spectators.
West Indies, who were 149 for three in the 38th over, badly lost momentum and found themselves needing 24 from the final three overs.
Jacobs came good, and so too did Neil McGarrell, whose straight six off Jacques Kallis in the penultimate over and his three wickets made him adjudicator Ron Headley's choice as Man-Of-The-Match.
We are delighted with the win. This was the sort of game that if we found ourselves in this sort of position a few months back we certainly would have lost, said West Indies coach Roger Harper.
We played some good cricket, especially in the first half when we bowled. We fielded well in spurts. We had a couple of bad moments, but generally I thought we played some very good cricket.
South Africa captain Shaun Pollock made no excuses for a side which came into the match with ten wins in 11 One-Day Internationals.
Two-hundred isn't enough in a One-Day game to defend. We set ourselves a nice platform to get a bigger score and we let ourselves down a bit, he said.
But the fight shown by the guys to defend it was a superb effort. It showed some of the old South African fight and I think the guys could be proud of the way they performed.
There was some enterprise to the start of the West Indies innings, but it was spoiled by some inept footwork that accounted for debutant Leon Garrick and his fellow Jamaican Marlon Samuels. Neither would want to remember his leaden-footed slash that resulted in an edged catch to the keeper.
Chris Gayle might have been similarly guilty, but his downfall was brought about primarily through the awesome brilliance of Jonty Rhodes. The live-wire fielder clutched an amazing right-handed effort inches off the ground with a full-length dive that stunned everyone beyond the boundary.
Piece of magic
West Indians were just as dumbfounded when he produced another piece of magic that sent Brian Lara on his way after an impressive halfcentury. Once more, international cricket's finest fielder threw himself forward this time to claim the catch just before the ball hit the turf.
It was the dismissal South Africa wanted. Lara and captain Carl Hooper, brought together at 60 for three in the 16th over, were entrenched in a potential match-winning partnership of 89 off 134 balls and once Lara was out the way, the scoring slowed almost a standstill for the next seven overs in which South Africa gave away just 18 runs.
Bout of cramp
West Indies' cause was not assisted by an untimely bout of cramp that affected Hooper in both legs. The West Indies captain, on 43, holed out to long-on immediately after calling for the services of a runner.
In stark contrast to the shoddy out-cricket they displayed in the World Series Cup limited-overs competition in Australia, the West Indies lifted their standards immensely a few straightforward blemishes notwithstanding.
Brian Lara set the pattern in the third over when he prised out Hershelle Gibbs with a direct throw from cover to the bowler's end. There was an even more breathtaking piece of fielding from Cameron Cuffy to effect the second wicket and end the most promising partnership of the innings.
The beanpole Vincentian covered plenty of ground in running around from long-off and was the most excited man on the ground when he intercepted Jacques Kallis' lofted drive off McGarrell.
In the context of how things turned out, it was a decisive strike by the 28-year-old McGarell, who was playing in his first One-Day International in more than two years.
The partnership between Kallis and Gary Kirsten was worth 64 in 14.5 overs when it was broken by McGarrell's final ball of his first over.
It was principally McGarrell who stemmed the flow of runs against opponents who had so ruthlessly attacked him in the 1999 limited-overs series in South Africa when he conceded almost seven runs an over in his four matches.
Yesterday, he hardly delivered a loose ball from the ten successive overs he sent down in the middle of the innings. He put South Africa under even more pressure with an important double-strike in his final over.
Jonty Rhodes, without being spectacular, made 36 with little fuss before his tendency of hitting slightly across the line made him an lbw victim.
If Rhodes' was the big wicket, Lance Klusener, whose big-hitting reputation is matched by few players in this form of the game, was an even more crucial scalp. His form in the Test series was wretched, but Klusener still remains a feared customer. But, he could not survive his first ball, one of fullish length which he drove over.
He was the third of four wickets in which South Africa slumped from 131 for three to 159 for seven. And this time there was no grand recovery of the kind they have often achieved with the help of their deep lower order.
McGarrell's effort with the ball was almost matched by Cuffy, who conceded 37 runs from his ten overs, but the West Indies' other two fast bowlers were disappointing.
Kerry Jeremy was lashed for 30 runs from his five overs and Mervyn Dillon bowled at five runs an over. Neither was tidy in the field as well.