Narine, Pollard power West Indies to 4-wicket win over South Africa
By Akeem Greene
It seemed to be a day to make an international return to cricket as the duo of Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard combined to power the West Indies to a hard fought four-wicket win over South Africa in the first match in the Ballr Cup Tri- Nation Series at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence on Friday.
Watched by approximately 8,000 spectators which represents just above half of capacity at the stadium, Sunil Narine bowled a mesmerizing spell of off-spin bowling on his return to International cricket to end with career best figures of 6-27 from 9.5 overs, the best by a West Indian spinner in a One Day International. Narine’s brilliance left the visiting South Africans losing seven wickets for 28 runs to be rattled out for 188 in 46.5 overs.
It was then a mature innings from Pollard, who made a run-a ball 67 not out that guided the West Indies to 190/6 to win by four wickets with 11 balls to spare.
West Indies Captain, Jason Holder (10 not out) stroked the winning runs, a confident cover drive for four to seal the much needed opening victory for the home team.
Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher trudged to the crease to begin the West Indian reply to a total that seemed small but would be challenging due to the typical low and slow track at Providence and the overcast and humid weather conditions that prevailed all match.
Three balls into the chase, Charles offered a genuine opportunity that should have been taken when he edged to a vacant first slip position as the ball went between wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla who was standing at a wide slip.
Charles offered another chance, as the ball ballooned over first slip for another boundary but the men in maroon moved unto 20 without loss after five overs.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir broke the 37-run partnership when Fletcher was undone by a googly for 11 in the 12th over.
Charles continued to play some unorthodox shots and as he and Darren Bravo brought up the team’s 50 in the 14th over with Charles on 31 and Bravo on five.
Four overs later, Charles fell for 31 (4x4s) in near identical fashion as Fletcher which gave AB de Villiers’ hope for a come from behind win.
Marlon Samuels (01) was the third victim of the spin dietary when he fell leg before to left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, as the home-side slipped to 53-3 in the 19th over.
Kieron Pollard came to the crease like a man on mission as he smacked the second he faced from Jean-Paul Duminy for six over the players’ pavilion but Duminy got some respite as he removed Denesh Ramdin for ten, leaving the team 76-4 from 26 overs.
Next over Pollard thumped Phangiso back over his head for two more sixes as he and Bravo added 76 for the fifth wicket when Bravo fell leg before for a patient 30 (2x4s) but the side seemed to be in comfortable position of 150-5 in the 39th over.
The hard hitting Pollard brought up his eight One Day International (ODI) half-century off 45 balls but at the other end Carlos Brathwaite hit a four over cover before holing out to long-on for eight with the home side needing 15 more runs for victory.
Earlier, with some lingering clouds, de Villiers won the toss and elected to bat on a pitch which surprisingly looked very dry considering the prevailing weather.
Jerome Taylor bowling the first over from the southern end could have removed the dangerous de Kock when he spilled a return catch off the third ball of the over and got the South African innings started, as the ball trickled into the boundary.
Captain Holder took up the mantle at the Media Center End but he floated one wide outside the off-stump of Hashim Amla who played a sumptuous cover-drive that flew to the ropes after piercing the gap between extra-cover and mid-off.
The pair reached 25 without loss from five overs, with de Kock on 13 and Amla on 10; the scoring became quicker as the seamers erred in length, allowing the batsmen to play some audacious pulls and drives to put the visitors 47 without loss after eight overs.
The introduction of mystery spinner Sunil Narine just after just eight overs of seam saw him extracting turn which gave Holder some control once more.
Carlos Brathwaite proved to be the man with the golden arm when he bowled a back of the length delivery which pegged back the middle stump of de Kock after he got an inside edge trying to pull the ball through the leg-side.
The attacking batsman, who was beginning to look threatening fell for 30 (6x4s) from 34 balls to leave his side 52-1 in the tenth over. Two balls later both openers were back in the hut, as Amla was adjudged leg before wicket off Narine for 20 (1×4) off 26 balls.
Amla’s departure saw the score now being 52-2 in 10.1 overs which brought AB de Villiers to the crease in which Holder deployed Pollard into the silly mid-on position and inserted a slip to put the pressure on the star player but the batsman nonchalantly played out the over to nullify any more chances of the West Indians making inroads.
The visitors reached a hundred in the 24th over with de Villiers on 22 and Rilee Roussouw on 26; the next over the 50 – run partnership between the two players was achieved, surprisingly with no runs coming in boundaries. In fact, only nine boundaries were scored in the Proteas innings in total.
The first boundary since the seventh over was scored when Roussouw played a reversed sweep through backward point off the left-am spin of Sulieman Benn.
A huge turning point came in the match when Taylor held onto a return catch to capture the humongous wicket of de Villiers for a painstaking 31 by his standards off 49 balls, and astonishingly, not hitting any boundaries. As Taylor finally held on to a return catch the vocal Providence crowd went into a frenzy.
The men in green and gold were now 130-3 in the 31st over; the wicket also brought the end of the 78th run partnership for the third wicket from 20 overs.
The left-hander Roussouw who played a typical rebuilding innings, got to his half-century in the 32nd over off 74 balls with the score on 141 for 3 and Jean- Paul Duminy on eight.
It was then time for the Sunil Narine show who returned into the attack. That move immediately paid dividends when he removed Roussouw for 61 (2x4s) with a low catch by Brathwaite at first slip; two balls later Farhaan Behardein played back to a delivery from the spinner and was struck plum leg before for a duck to leave the visitors in a spot of bother at 160-5 from 36 overs.
Five overs later, the South Africans were further trouble at 172-6 when Duminy chopped the ball back unto his stumps for 23 in the 41st over.
Narine then made light work of the tail-enders, removing Chris Morris (09), Aaron Phangiso (03) and Imran Tahir (00) to bundle out the visitors inside the allotted overs.
Brathwaite supported Holder with 2-35 while Holder and Taylor took one wicket a piece in an extremely disciplined bowling performance.
At the presentation ceremony, Trinidadian Sunil Narine was named Man of the match for his splendid return to international cricket with a remodeled bowling action that he said is about 80% different from before. He also said that it was a lot of work to get to where he is now while he also noted that it was difficult to watch from the outside with so much cricket being played.
The next match will be on Sunday also at Providence when the West Indies take on World Champions Australia in another day/night match beginning at 13:00 hrs. ([email protected])