Amla century makes it 4-0 for South Africa
South Africa 304 for 3 (Amla 129, de Villiers 57*, Kallis 51) beat West Indies 303 for 6 (Chanderpaul 66, Richards 59, Darren Bravo 45*) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
It really shouldn't have got so close. South Africa appeared to have the match in the bag while Hashim Amla was at the crease and for a while after too, but somehow found a way to press the pressure button and take the game to the final ball. Some inept West Indian fielding towards the end, and lack of intensity in pushing for an unlikely win, let them down and it was left to AB de Villiers to steer the more deserving team home.
The required run rate soared to 8.60 at the end of the 45th over, when South Africa had to take the mandatory batting Powerplay. Two missed chances in the outfield gave South Africa a breather and it came down to the final over, when the visitors needed a more manageable three. The scores were level after the first two balls, but Dwayne Bravo tightened the noose in the next three. de Villiers pushed the third to mid-on, shouldered arms outside off to the fourth expecting it to be a wide before failing to dig out a yorker. The infield was packed and the din around the ground increased with the expectation of a great escape. de Villiers squirted the last ball to Darren Sammy at short midwicket, who ought to have effected an easy run-out but failed to gather the ball and fluffed a throw at the stumps.
Though both teams made blunders under pressure towards the end, West Indies had more wounds to tend to, primarily because of an underwhelming display in the field. With both Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor out injured, they lacked a raw quick bowler to hurry the batsmen with bounce on a good batting pitch, and the support cast of medium pacers were ineffective with the new ball. South Africa exploited that weakness for the most part and it seemed that only complacency could cost them the game, which it almost did.
Their response to 303 was set up by Hashim Amla, who was at the centrefold spread again with an ice-cool century, his second in the series . His is not a commercially driven slam-bang approach which would make IPL scouts sit up and watch. He relies more on conventional strokes and a risk-free approach, accelerating according to the match situation and picking up singles whenever possible. He battled exhaustion, scored the bulk of his runs in singles - only 30 of his runs came off boundaries when he reached his century - and could have batted till the end if his body allowed him.
Using the crease, Amla drove through the covers, played short-arm pulls, cut past backward point and even scooped Sammy for six over long-off. West Indies set innovative fields for Graeme Smith - placing two short midwickets - but not for Amla. Having taken so many runs off them in the series so far, West Indies could have identified a weakness and forced him to do something different, but instead just went through the motions. The intensity dropped after Smith's dismissal as Amla calmly collected the singles and reached his fifty, off 45 balls.
He took charge of two stands of 59 and 119 with Smith and Jacques Kallis respectively, and continued grafting it out till he neared his century. A squirt to backward point got him there, but he was already running low on battery, squatting on the pitch whenever he had a breather. He tried hitting out to conserve energy, but eventually fell to a tired shot to long-off. As he trudged back, South Africa were still in control with 80 needed off nearly 12 overs with seven wickets in hand.
They were lucky to have an in-form de Villiers at the crease, but the man at the other end, JP Duminy, wasn't as fluent. West Indies plugged things back to such an extent that they didn't concede a boundary for close to nine overs. The required rate soared to nine before de Villiers eased the pressure with a paddled-four off Ravi Rampaul. Duminy was let off twice, first by Dwayne Bravo and then Darren Bravo. An 18-run over off Kieron Pollard tilted the game back in South Africa's favour before fortunes oscillated again till the final ball.
The drama overshadowed what was an impressive comeback by the West Indian batsmen after the third ODI. It was a lesson in crafting an ideal one-day innings - start off aggressively, consolidate in the middle overs and keep wickets in hand and then let loose in the slog overs. The three main players in each of those phases were Dale Richards, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Darren Bravo, who dictated terms in different styles to take West Indies to 303 and give the Sunday crowd at Windsor Park a match to watch.
Richards compensated for Chris Gayle's failure with an attacking knock, using the crease well to unfurl elegant shots down the ground. The South Africans were disciplined through the middle overs to peg West Indies back, but importantly, the duo of Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo were prepared to see off the period by grafting, instead of letting the frustration get to their heads.
West Indies took the Powerplay in the 45th over and the pair of Darren Bravo and Pollard inflicted maximum damage in a stand of 59. Darren Bravo, who has a style to match Brian Lara with his trademark high backlift and stylish foot movements, punctuated the passage of play with carved boundaries over extra cover and a one-handed six over long-off. Pollard, under pressure to deliver for West Indies, brought out a couple of monster hits off Charl Langeveldt to take West Indies towards 300.
Unfortunately, it was a day the hosts couldn't get their batting and bowling to click in cohesion and as the series rolls into the final dead rubber on Thursday, the same questions on skill and commitment will be asked.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo