As the old saying goes, always leave them wanting more. There was no doubt that Shaun Pollock did that tonight, bowing out of international Twenty20 cricket in style, leading South Africa to a four-wicket victory over West Indies in the second Twenty20 international at The Wanderers. He strode out with his side seemingly heading for a messy defeat and turned the game on its head. Even Pollock himself would have struggled to script such a farewell.
He had already shown his class with the ball, taking 1 for 19 off his four overs, exploiting English-style conditions which made clear why so many counties are after his signature. But when he arrived at the crease his side were in deep trouble at 66 for 5 chasing 132, and two overs later he was joined by Albie Morkel at 77 for 6.
The pair benefited from West Indies lacking quality fourth and fifth bowlers. Dwayne Bravo, still unable to bowl himself following the injury he sustained in the Test series, had to turn to Ravi Rampaul, Rawl Lewis and Marlon Samuels. Their eight overs went for 58 runs. But in conditions that favoured the ball, Pollock and Morkel still had plenty to do. They hit the bad ball - and there were plenty towards the end - and, crucially, refused to panic even when the asking rate eased into double figures.
Pollock's experience and West Indies' lack of it told. Forty three were needed from four overs when Morkel thumped two sixes down the ground to keep South Africa in the hunt and the crowd on tenterhooks. Then Pollock, with 20 required from two, settled the matter by crashing two massive sixes, one square and one straight, off successive deliveries from the gentle spin of Marlon Samuels. It was almost as if he had been toying with his opponents to enjoy another date on his short farewell tour.
Both innings followed a similar pattern, with the ball on top at first and then the batsmen finding their feet. Pollock and Makhaya Ntini were awesome in the opening overs after West Indies were stuck in on a damp pitch, with low cloud adding to the sideways movement. Bowling just short of a length, they ensured the batsmen were unable to get onto the front foot, and playing back to prodigious swing made them look increasingly clueless.
Frustration did for the bulk of the top order as the batsmen resorted to wild swings and slashes, a tactic which rarely works even in Twenty20. It was a day for seam but Graeme Smith had to fit in Johan Botha, his spinner, although it was a mystery why he gave Justin Ontong two overs, the second of which went for 17. Bravo milked the interlude, hitting high and hard as he cracked two big sixes as briefly the green hard hats issued to spectators were tested, but the return of the seamers cut short his fun. Pollock came on for his final over and fittingly he signed off with a wicket.
Then West Indies woke up as South Africa appeared to go into cruise mode. Jerome Taylor and Daren Sammy both bashed massive leg-side sixes, and the fielders helped them to a few more runs with some wild throws and poor backing up. The batsmen also decided to run almost everything that went through to Mark Boucher, stealing 13 byes as Boucher grew increasingly frustrated and his glovework sloppy. In the end it was almost the difference between the sides.
The target was low - the par on this ground is 171, but the conditions were far from normal as South Africa soon found out. Herschelle Gibbs was utterly cleaned up by Taylor's third delivery and for the next 11 overs the ball dominated. Fidel Edwards was dangerous but slightly profligate, while the surprise package was Darren Sammy. He was hoiked for four off his third ball but finished with 3 for 21, choking the life out an increasingly clueless middle order.
As the situation grew desperate, Pollock strode out to a warm reception from a full house. Forty minutes later he strode back having slapped a reminder to the selectors just what they would be missing. An adoring public were never in any doubt.