Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Hard loss


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by HAYDN GILL in AntiguaIT WAS a comedy of errors and another unacceptable embarrassment.West Indies lost the first Digicel Twenty20 International by 13 runs to South Africa yesterday but the margin of defeat was bigger than it was and the manner of it was bordering on laughable.In chase of a hardly daunting target of 137, they made heavy weather of it, gifting wickets at the start with careless strokes and creating some unprecedented scenes at the end that looked more in keeping with amateurs.They fell short at 123 and it spoiled the outstanding earlier work of the bowlers and wicket-keeper Andre Fletcher’s high standards behind the stumps and left a bitter taste of many fans at the Vivian Richards Stadium.An asking rate of less than seven runs an over hardly requires throwing caution to the wind but both captain Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo fell to catches in the deep inside the first ten overs.Rookie fast bowler Ryan McLaren became only the fourth player to claim a five-wicket haul in the shortest form of the game, but his efforts were probably overshadowed by the inadequacies of the West Indies players.South Africa managed to keep the hosts in check during the middle overs but Kieron Pollard’s big-hitting that produced 27 off 17 balls kept them in the match when 56 were still needed from the last five overs.It was from there the game dropped to level that left a lot to be desired.After Pollard clouted a customary six that cleared the players’ dug out at long-off, he fell to the very next ball with a cross-batted stroke.The worst was yet to come.Darren Sammy made 17 off 28 balls but probably missed as many balls as he hit. South Africa and more precisely, Dale Steyn, opted to bowl at him outside stump and he struggled to make contact on most occasions.The comedy reached a high point when Jerome Taylor was run out from a wide when attempting to run a single to the keeper from what was a free-hit bowled to Sammy.More unbelievable stuff followed when Sammy was stumped from a wide when he moved out of the crease with the ball in the keeper’s hands.It was the third time in the innings that a wicket fell to a wide, the first coming when Narsingh Deonarine went to a leg-side stumping from the very first ball he faced.That came in the middle of a slump in which Bravo gave a catch to long-on after making 20 off 22 balls in an unaccustomed position at No. 3 and Ramnaresh Sarwan, shaping to hit to leg, gave a low catch to extra-cover.By then, Gayle, on whom so much depends, hit a ball down the throat of long-on after South Africa were able to restrict him following two fours in the first over.Even before what transpired at the end, there was some comedy at the beginning.Jerome Taylor claimed the wicket of Loots Bosman with the help of a fine diving catch by Fletcher to a ball that umpire Clyde Duncan had signalled wide before the batsman started to head off the square.It was one of four dismissals Fletcher was involved in.After a second wicket partnership of 73 between Jacques Kallis (53 off 45 balls) and captain Graeme Smith (37 off 31 balls), West Indies appeared to be the beneficiary of good fortune.Smith walked off believing he had been stumped by Fletcher, but television replays showed that when the bails were removed, Smith’s foot appeared to be still behind the crease.It was the opening West Indies needed and Kemar Roach responded with a double strike through some aggressive fast bowling in which he forced Johan Botha to glove a lifter from the second ball he faced.Those were welcomed wickets that stalled South Africa’s advance and the tourists could only manage 29 runs from the last five overs.West Indies would have been satisfied in restricting them to their lowest total in five Twenty20 Internationals between the teams.Gayle and his men, however, reciprocated the favour to gift the opposition victory.


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