South Africa brush aside hosts to take series
South Africa wrapped up their sixth successive bilateral series against West Indies after their well-oiled pace machine steamrolled the home side on a barely responsive track in Dominica. AB de Villiers' fluent half-century was the centerpiece of what had seemed a small South African total, but a string of soft dismissals undermined the chase and extended West Indies' winless streak against Graeme Smith's side to nine.
West Indies made a bright start to their pursuit of 225 but Chris Gayle fell in the sixth over after two balls that highlighted his hit-or-miss style: an awesome strike shipped the first delivery over midwicket for six, the next ball was met with a footwork-free slash which ended up as a top edge to slip. His opening partner, Dale Richards, played a nervy innings interspersed with some confident hits like the eye-catching drive over mid-on for four off Charl Langeveldt.
At 58 for 1 after 11 overs West Indies were coasting, but the introduction of the bowler of the series so far, Morne Morkel, gave the visitors hope. In his first over, he had Richards edging to Jacques Kallis as the batsman tried for the umpteenth time to guide the ball to third man. In his next over, he proved too quick for Darren Bravo, who was struck in front of middle stump. The home side were now 63 for 3, and Morkel's figures after two short spells were 4-0-5-2 .
The potentially explosive but brittle West Indian batting now needed the experienced Shivnarine Chanderpaul to anchor the innings. His brand of no-risk cricket - cutting out the showbiz shots and poking the ball into the gaps for singles - took West Indies to 85 for 3 after 20, before Kallis had him nicking to the keeper. de Villiers pouched another one soon after when a pacy Steyn bouncer flew off Dwayne Bravo's glove.
The asking-rate was still manageable and West Indies had a chance if their big-hitters, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy, knuckled down and played some sensible cricket. However, they were tied down by a barrage of short balls from the South African quicks and they decided to take the batting Powerplay in an attempt to pick up some boundaries.
However, the West Indian challenge was soon snuffed out in the 30th over from Langeveldt in which three wickets went down. Pollard's international career remains a pale imitation of his glittering domestic Twenty20 one, and he wasted another chance to win over West Indian fans by slashing straight to backward point when on 10. Sammy followed four deliveries later, looking for the big hit but only edging to the keeper.
The softest dismissal of the innings was of Jerome Taylor off the final delivery of that Langeveldt over: he screamed 'Go, go, go' to his partner after pushing the ball to mid-off but jogged for most of what he thought was a simple single, before sprinting the last few yards which didn't prove enough to beat a direct hit from Steyn. West Indies were 118 for 8 and the series was gone.
The home side's batting was in sharp contrast to their spirited bowling and fielding earlier in the day, their best effort in the field this series. Though the South African top-order was mostly untroubled in the initial Powerplays, Gayle's men fought back to bowl the visitors out with nearly three overs remaining.
Despite a quiet spell midway through the innings following the loss of Smith and Jacques Kallis in the space of five overs, South Africa were well placed at 146 for 3 after 31 overs, with de Villiers confidently moving towards yet another half-century. However, two of their youngsters, Alviro Petersen and David Miller, couldn't deliver when needed and South Africa slid into a hole.
That meant de Villiers had to play out the final 15 overs with players who weren't quite accomplished with the bat. He regularly waltzed down the track even to the quicker bowlers and placed the ball adroitly to score at a brisk pace even when the rest floundered. It seemed South Africa were set to hit top gear when he clobbered a huge six over midwicket in the 38th over, but the bouncer which struck Johan Botha above the eye snapped the momentum.
Another burst of wickets followed, including the run-out of de Villiers to a slide-rule throw from Benn at mid-off. South Africa had no specialist batsmen left for their batting Powerplay and ended up with just 224, but their aggressive fast bowling ensured it was enough to clinch the series.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo