Sammy's sensational hitting not enough
The sensational late hitting of Darren Sammy was not enough to deny South Africa as they beat the West Indies by 17 runs in the second one-day international at North Sound in Antigua on Monday.
Sammy broke the record of Brian Lara for the fastest half-century by a West Indian - in 19 balls - as his 58 not out off just 24 balls lifted the West Indies to 283 all out.
South Africa, defending 300 for five, looked obvious winners when Kieron Pollard fell foul to the catch of the match by Johan Botha, running in and diving forwards at deep mid-off, to leave the West Indies on 182 for four in the 39th over.
The West Indies, despite always being behind the required run-rate, were still in the hunt while Pollard (29) and Dwayne Bravo (74) added 63 in 10 overs, but it had been a long, hard trek for them against stifling bowling.
Given how all the batsmen had struggled to pick up boundaries, sensational is the only word for Sammy's innings, which lasted just 24 balls but could have filled a highlights video, with two fours and six magnificent sixes.
Sammy came to the crease after Denesh Ramdin (two) was run out by David Miller's direct hit and the West Indies were 200 for six, needing 101 runs off 56 balls.
Alviro Petersen dropped a straightforward catch at backward point off Morkel when Sammy had just two and St Lucia's first international cricketer immediately made South Africa pay. Dale Steyn and Johan Botha were both slapped for a pair of successive sixes over long-on and Morne Morkel was hammered for 19 runs in the 47th over.
But Ryan McLaren's 48th over was a telling change in the momentum as he conceded just five runs and forced Ravi Rampaul to run himself out as he desperately tried to get Sammy on strike for the next over.
Graeme Smith's brilliant backhand flick then ran out Nikita Miller's runner, Pollard, to end the match.
Jacques Kallis felt that the Proteas had nevertheless had the game under control in spite of the late Sammy fireworks.
"We got control of the game but then relaxed a little bit," he commented. "The guys probably felt the game was done and took their foot off the pedal. But, to be fair, Sammy hit it really well and we missed our lengths a little bit."
Kallis added that there was certainly room for hard work in both the batting and bowling departments at the back end of the innings.
"I don’t think we finished off as well with the bat as we should have done and the same applies with the ball. So there is something to work on looking forward.
"It has been frustrating not to score that many runs in the final 10 overs but conditions have also played a part. They don’t allow you to attack as much as you would like. The make-up of the side has also changed quite a bit. We don’t have as many big hitters down the order as we used to have. Maybe that is something we need to look at.
"Certainly, from the bowling side, we need to look at our death bowling as well.
"Our guys were caught in between two lengths because the wicket was a little bit uneven. Maybe we could have gone yorkers a little bit earlier but it is something each bowler will have to look at and decide where he went wrong."
Openers Chris Gayle and Dale Richards had given the West Indies a solid start with their opening stand of 40, but tight bowling, especially by Morkel, gave them little leeway. The pressure told as Gayle (26) carved Morkel hard and flat to McLaren at cover, Ramnaresh Sarwan (six) retired hurt after injuring himself in trying to sneak a quick single, and Narsingh Deonarine eventually holed out off Lonwabo Tsotsobe after scoring seven off 17 balls.
Richards and Bravo came together in a stand of 42 for the third wicket, but it was a meandering affair, taking 10 overs as Bravo tried to enthuse Richards into more urgency.
In the 28th over, Richards backed away to play an extravagant slash shot against Kallis, whose three overs for seven runs were most useful, but could only bottom-edge the ball into his own stumps. Richards scored a defiant 51 off 85 balls.
There was not much action from Pollard either as South Africa kept him to just a single boundary off 35 balls, before Botha's catch off Morkel was another definite for the highlights video.
Bravo also played his part in making a near-impossible target reachable as he hit three fours and two sixes in his 74 off 70 balls. When Steyn had him caught at deep cover by Kallis at the end of the 44th over, it was a telling wicket.
Having to negotiate batting with the tail left Sammy with little leeway, but you will struggle to find a more explosive innings in a losing cause.
AMLA AT IT AGAIN
Hashim Amla once again laid the perfect platform as he scored 92, but South Africa never really put their foot down thereafter as they scored 300 for five.
Amla, opening the batting, shared partnerships of 89 in 16 overs with captain Graeme Smith (37) and 79 in 15.3 overs with Kallis (85), but there was a definite lull in proceedings after they reached 161 for one after 30 overs.
It was AB de Villiers who eventually seized the initiative as he raced to 41 off 35 balls, but South Africa made a so-so finish to their innings as the last eight overs saw them score 62 runs for the loss of three wickets.
Amla, so prolific this year, was the first out of the blocks as he played some wonderful strokes, particularly some breathtaking punch-drives. South Africa were restricted early on by some tight West Indian bowling, although a lacklustre effort in the field gave them some breathing space.
A misjudged sweep shot by Smith saw him go after 16 overs, bowled by slow left-armer Nikita Miller, but Amla and Kallis kept the pot bubbling without ever boiling over.
The West Indies were in a really sticky situation before Amla tried to flick Jerome Taylor off his pads and Dale Richards, diving forward at short midwicket, clung on to a good catch. Amla's 92 off 95 balls, with seven fours, was a top-class innings and had put South Africa in a thoroughly dominant position.
De Villiers was on fire from the outset as he lofted his third ball, from Chris Gayle, over long-on for six, and South Africa were still on track for a score well in excess of 300 even though the new wicketkeeper holed out off Kieron Pollard to leave them on 239 for three in the 43rd over.
Pollard also caused the demise of Kallis, slicing a catch to point for 85 off 89 balls and it was only David Miller's two sixes, in his 26 not out off 19 balls, that lifted the funereal pace at the end.
Alviro Petersen departed the scene for a single, trapped lbw by Taylor, firing the ball into his pads, while Ryan McLaren (8*) paddle-swept the fast bowler's last ball of the innings over the wicketkeeper for four, bringing South Africa to a round 300.
Pollard inspired much of South Africa's labouring at the end, taking two for 39 in eight overs as he bowled unchanged from the 35th over. Taylor finished with two for 50 in nine overs.
West Indies - Chris Gayle (capt), Dale Richards, Dwayne Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Narsingh Deonarine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Darren Sammy, Jerome Taylor, Ravi Rampaul, Nikita Miller.
South Africa - Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), Alviro Petersen, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Johan Botha, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.