Sunday, April 14, 2024

Run that got away


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by HAYDN GILL  in AntiguaAnother low-scoring Digicel Twenty20 International, played out on another difficult pitch  at the Vivian Richards  Stadium yesterday, ended  in a heart-breaking defeat  by one run for West Indies  that gave South Africa  a 2-0 series triumph.For most of their chase of 121, West Indies always looked behind the eight-ball, but there was a semblance of hope when they started the final over from  fast bowler Ryan McLaren  15 shy of the target.Darren Sammy almost turned from villain to hero in a short matter of 24 hours, collecting  ten runs from the first three balls, courtesy an edged boundary to third man and another  four that included two overthrows and desperate dives.It brought the equation to five from three balls and a fair-sized crowd was now on its feet  in anticipation of a win.They would leave the stadium with more disappointment  for the second successive day.Sammy managed a single  to square-leg from the fourth ball and Narsingh Deonarine  was run out off the fifth,  trying to complete a second run with another big dive.Out came Jerome Taylor to see if he could get three off the final ball. It was squeezed out to point and a single was not enough, leaving West Indies at  119 for seven in response  to South Africa’s 120 for seven.The hosts will look back  and probably feel that they tried to press the accelerator  a little too late.Truth be told, however, the pitch was never easy to bat on. Fluent strokeplay wasn’t on the cards and the fast bowlers gained generous bounce in both innings of the match.After the early losses  of openers Chris Gayle to a good ball from pacer Dale Steyn that pinned him on the backfoot  for a second-ball duck and Andre Fletcher to a nondescript stroke that was caught by the ’keeper, Dwayne Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul consolidated with a third-wicket partnership of 68 in which neither batsman dominated.Bravo’s 40 took 42 balls and Chanderpaul spent 37 balls over 29.  By the time their stand  was broken in the 15th over  at 77 for three, the asking rate had climbed to 8.60.Kieron Pollard arrived at No. 5 in a situation to which his  big-hitting methods are ideally suited. The tough nature of things was perhaps underlined by the fact that he didn’t score at better than his usual a run-a-ball rate.While Chanderpaul went trying to be innovative, both Bravo and Pollard were out trying to launch the ball  out of the ground.On both occasions the ball went sky-high before landing in the hands of fielders who might have been relieved against the background that both batsmen had been earlier let off.Having failed to chase 137  the previous day, this was an even bitter pill to swallow  for West Indian supporters.They would have been satisfied with the team’s effort in the field that restricted the South Africans after Gayle again won the toss.Fast bowler Jerome Taylor hardly bowled a bad ball in claiming three for 14.He removed both openers, the first in almost identical fashion  to the previous match after wicketkeeper Andre Fletcher held a neat leg-side catch after the ball came off Loot Bosman’s glove.South Africa’s middle never got going either and after they were reduced to 59 for five in the 12th over, they required a sixth-wicket stand of 57 between debutant David Miller and Johan Botha to rally them to a fighting total.The 20-year-old Miller quickly adjusted to the surface to hit 33 off 26 balls, while Botha made his first of two meaningful contributions with a supporting 23 off 22 balls before both were dismissed in the final over.Botha came back to feature with his off-breaks at a critical stage by removing Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Bravo, and was the clear choice for the  Man Of The Match award.

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