South Africa cruised to a fourth straight victory in their one-day series against West Indies, thanks to a blistering 37-ball fifty from their captain, Graeme Smith, and a coolly compiled 77 from 86 balls from AB de Villiers. But the man who stole the show on an emotional evening at Kingsmead was Shaun Pollock, who bade farewell to his adoring home fans with one final display of his allround qualities.
Pollock has had more taxing assignments in his 12-year, 302-match one-day career, but there was a sense of inevitability about his penultimate appearance. First he strangled West Indies' batsmen with the trademark figures of 10-3-38-1, and then, against a backdrop of banners reading, among other things, "For he's a Polly good fellow," he marshalled the final overs of a trouble-free run-chase, and sealed the deal with a carve for four off Dwayne Bravo.
The result was the perfect retirement present, but West Indies had only themselves to blame for missing out on a consolation victory. After winning the toss, their innings was a hotchpotch affair that started with impressive resolve, folded with weary familiarity, then revived itself in an extraordinary final flurry, as the tailenders Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards clobbered 57 unbeaten runs from just 33 balls, to transform their innings from a perilous 206 for 9 to a respectable 263.
But it never looked like being enough from the moment that Smith was dropped at gully from the very second ball of South Africa's reply. After taking an over or two to find his range, he lacerated the new ball and moved from 4 to 50 in just 26 balls. Taylor and Daren Powell were each carved for three fours in an over, and Darren Sammy might well have gone the same way, had Smith not picked out Shivnarine Chanderpaul at square leg as he pulled at and miscued a long-hop.
South Africa were 77 for 1 in the 12th over, and they never looked like surrendering the initiative, not even when Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs both fell to indiscreet forcing shots. In de Villiers and JP Duminy, South Africa had a middle-order pairing with enough nous to play the bowlers on their merits, and they had 99 risk-free runs for the fourth wicket to put the result beyond doubt.
Duminy was in sight of his fourth half-century in 24 games when he lofted indiscreetly at Bravo, with less than 50 runs still needed, while de Villiers might have had designs on his fourth hundred, when he miscued a slow full-toss to midwicket. But into the fray, to lap up the acclaim, strode Pollock, and he did not disappoint.
West Indies were left to pick out the positives of a performance that had promised better. Thanks to their tailenders, they did reach their highest total of the series, but that should have been achieved with much less drama after Brenton Parchment and Sewnarine Chattergoon had opened up with a composed stand of 97. But in typical West Indian style, the rest of the innings didn't follow the same script. Chattergoon and Parchment fell in the space of two overs before Marlon Samuels, who slammed a wonderful 98 in the third match of the rubber, ballooned an attempted pull to midwicket for 4.
Bravo and Chanderpaul regrouped well in a fourth-wicket stand of 42, but Chanderpaul undid that good work by running his partner out with a crass call to de Villiers' right at cover, before paddling an attempted sweep to Smith at backward square leg. Patrick Browne then gave a brief indication of the fireworks to come when he crashed consecutive sixes off Makhaya Ntini, who endured a truly dreadful day. His nine overs disappeared for 80, including 24 off the last of the innings. But once again for West Indies, it was an insufficient show of defiance.