South Africa edge home despite Sammy heroics
South Africa 300 for 5 (Amla 92, Kallis 85, Pollard 2-39) beat West Indies 283 (Bravo 74, Sammy 58*, Morkel 3-58) by 17 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A stunning late assault from Darren Sammy couldn't prevent South Africa sealing a 17-run victory set-up by fifties from Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis in a high-scoring game at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium.
The match had looked all but over after West Indies had slipped to 236 for 8 in the 45th over, still 65 short of their target but Sammy launched six sixes and two fours on his way to the fastest ODI fifty by a West Indian - from 20 balls. He took the equation to 18 needed off 13 but successive run outs sealed a tense result that had looked a formality for almost the whole game.
Earlier South Africa batted with typical efficiency to post 300 for 5. There was no Sammy-style assault on the bowling at any point in their innings, instead slowly and methodically they advanced to an imposing position. Amla pierced the off-side ring with a series of punchy drives early on, before working the ball around with total ease to progress serenely to 92 of 95 balls. Kallis was similarly authoritative, making 85 from 89 balls with just four fours. With David Miller underlining his promise to finish the innings with a quick-fire 26, South Africa reached the 300 mark which looked well clear of what West Indies could chase.
Chris Gayle, so often the inspiration in the Caribbean, lifted West Indies' hopes with a couple of crunching blows early on - including one murderous thump over extra cover off Lonwabo Tsotsobe - but with his dismissal to Morne Morkel there was a collective groan as the vocal crowd realised their main hope of a contest had vanished.
The reliance of the home side on their captain is similar to the days where Brian Lara's fortunes determined West Indies' but Sammy's performance, alongside a skilful 74 from Dwayne Bravo, proved the pool of talent runs a little deeper.
Ramnaresh Sarwan could have made a real difference, but in the over following Gayle's fall, he pulled a hamstring running a sharp single and hobbled off the field. It left West Indies without a senior batsman and with question marks lingering over the fitness of a number players in the side. Sarwan had been left out of the team for Zimbabwe's tour in March on fitness grounds and he hasn't returned in top condition. Dale Richards, into the side for Andre Fletcher, struggled through the second half of his innings with a pulled muscle himself and earlier Nikita Miller was forced off in the middle of his third over with a rib injury.
Each blow proved important as West Indies ultimately fell short. For all the West Indies' self-inflicted faults, South Africa were impressive. The local supporters must have recognised something faintly familiar about Morkel's performance. Until Sammy got hold of him at the end Morkel recalled memories of local-boy Curtly Ambrose, as he used his long levers to extract bounce that no other bowler could find on his way to three wickets.
Through the middle overs West Indies' middle order were choked, not only by the quality of South Africa's bowling and fielding, but by their lack of deftness and ability to work singles. The contrast with Amla and Kallis could not be more apparent. Narsingh Deonarine, batting ahead of Bravo, picked the fielders with frustrating frequency before ending his own anguish by chipping Tsotsobe tamely to mid on.
Richards, meanwhile, though never looking dominant, had worked his way to 51 and shared a useful partnership Bravo, but could never quite resist the vice South Africa were slowly closing on his side. His dismissal brought Kieron Pollard to the wicket with West Indies pleading, once again, for a big-hitting miracle. By the time the Batting Powerplay was taken in the 36th over, West Indies needed 9.53 an over and Pollard ended up toe-ending Steyn soon after to be smartly caught by Johan Botha sliding in off the long on boundary.
It was Bravo who first gave something for the home crowds to cheer about - and set an example for his team-mates to follow. His 74 came quicker than a run a ball but featured just three fours. He ran superbly and almost laid the foundations for an unexpected victory. His dismissal brought a vaguely farcical scenario where Sarwan took an eternity to drag himself on to the field, only to fall first ball and hobble all the way back off.
At that stage the game was as good as done but Sammy had other ideas. He took to his impossible mission with gusto but ended up crestfallen as Miller - using Pollard as a runner - attempted a single to Smith at cover, only for Smith to throw down the stumps and secure a result Sammy had almost ambushed.
Sahil Dutta is assistant editor of Cricinfo