West Indies 300 for 3 (Chanderpaul 92, Sarwan 77*, Lara 59*) beat South Africa 297 for 4 (Kallis 95*, Klusener 41*) by 7 wickets with 5 overs to spare
Last week, West Indies were bundled out for 54 and seemed already to be sitting on a beach back home, resting up ahead of the England series. Today, needing a win to keep their series hopes alive, they flailed the bowling to all parts and rattled past South Africa's hefty total of 297 for 4 with five overs and seven wickets remaining. It was an astonishing transformation, and quite unexpected.
The West Indian heroes were Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose 75-ball 92 proved that even the littlest men can pack a mean punch; Ramnaresh Sarwan, who played the anchor role to perfection; and Brian Lara, who waltzed to the middle at No. 5, and applied a furious coup de grace by belting 20 runs (including four byes) off Andre Nel's final over. Nel had a day to forget. He was pasted over long-off by Chris Gayle in his first over, and was taken to the cleaners by all and sundry, his six overs disappearing for 63 runs.
For Gayle, it was a brief return to the spectacular form he had shown in the Test series, and it was precisely what the innings needed, as South Africa were rocked back on their heels by his ferocity. His 26 came from 22 balls, including a second six off Nel, before Shaun Pollock, the pick of South Africa's bowlers, forced a simple catch for Robin Peterson in the covers (31 for 1).
Chanderpaul, half Gayle's height but equally belligerent, took up the mantle. He smacked Nel for three fours in an over before hoisting Lance Klusener over backward square leg for six, and with Ricardo Powell providing level-headed support, West Indies were motoring. But Kallis, who had earlier finished five runs shy of yet another hundred, popped up with a cunningly disguised offcutter that tweaked round Powell's half-cocked defensive stroke and plucked out his off stump (92 for 2).
It was a surprise to see Sarwan emerge from the pavilion at a time when Lara's expertise might have been called for. But West Indies' shuffling paid off, as Sarwan and Chanderpaul accumulated 108 for the third wicket, albeit with one or two familiar scares in the running between the wickets. Chanderpaul creamed Klusener for another six over long-on, and brought up his fifty from 48 balls, whereupon Graeme Smith brought himself on for a bowl in a desperate bid for a breakthrough. In the end, it was Pollock who did the trick, finding a thin edge through to Mark Boucher as Chanderpaul attempted to steer the ball to the third-man boundary, but Lara was not about to give up the game with less than 100 still needed. His approach was direct and devastating.
South Africa had appeared to be on course for their third win of the series after winning the toss and getting first use of a belter of a wicket. Smith, on his 23rd birthday, clipped his first ball, from Merv Dillon, through midwicket for four, and the pace barely relented thereafter. And once again, West Indies's tormentor-in-chief was Kallis, who clobbered 95 not out from 97 balls. He was left needing a six from the last delivery to record his sixth century in eight matches against West Indies, but instead had to settle for a not-insubstantial series average of 222.
Kallis added an unbeaten 107 for the fifth wicket with Lance Klusener, who arrived at the crease to a tumultuous ovation. And though he made a far-from-shabby 41 from 38 balls, Klusener took a while to find his range - such was the West Indian ennui in the field, a total in excess of 300 had seemed a foregone conclusion. Dillon had opened up with a diet of leg-stump deliveries, and when Lara introduced the offspin of Ryan Hurley in the seventh over, he added to West Indies' problems by bowling a succession of no-balls.
Despite the ease with which the runs were flowing, wickets did keep falling at regular intervals. Gibbs mis-timed Dillon to Dwayne Smith at mid-on for 18 (53 for 1); Smith was beaten in flight by Gayle, who followed up with an astonishing one-handed pluck at gully to remove the pinch-hitter, Robin Peterson. Boeta Dippenaar provided Kallis with solid support as he clicked through the gears, until he was bowled off his pads by Sarwan. At that stage, it seemed South Africa had already done more than enough, but West Indies had other ideas.