Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer
South African skipper Graeme Smith celebrates after completing his century against the West Indies in the first Digicel one-day series match at Sabina Park yesterday. South Africa won and Smith was awarded man of the match. At left is teammate Jacques Kallis.
Tony Becca, Contributing Editor
THE DIGICEL one-day international series got off to a cracking start at Sabina Park yesterday with South Africa, in a magnificent batting display before a bumper crowd, knocking off the West Indies for a 1-0 lead in the five-match contest.
Chasing a victory target of 254 after the West Indies were dismissed with 1.1 of their allotted 50 overs still to be bowled, South Africa, paced by an opening partnership of 131 between captain Graeme Smith, 103, and Boeta Dippenaar, 57, cruised to victory with eight wickets in hand and with five overs to spare the end coming when, with eight runs needed for victory, Jacques Kallis smashed medium-pacer Dwayne Bravo for successive boundaries, one to third man and the other straight down the ground.
The second match of the series takes place at Sabina Park today with the action scheduled to start at 9:35 a.m..
In a performance that silenced the home crowd, man of the match Smith and Dippenaar treated the West Indies bowlers, all of them, with disdain as they smashed boundary after boundary in setting up South Africa's victory.
In what was like a shot-for-shot contest between the two before Dippenaar swung at medium-pacer Wavell Hinds and was bowled in the 23rd over, the left-handed Smith blasted 13 boundaries off 102 deliveries while ticking off his fourth one-day century and his first against the West Indies, the right-handed Dippenaar blasted seven fours and one six off 68 deliveries, and but for two or three that flew off the outside edge of their bats when they were beaten by the away swing of left-handers Pedro Collins and Ian Bradshaw, they were all lovely strokes.
Some of them, such as Smith's chip-and-drive against pacer Collins high to the long-on boundary, Smith's chip-and-drive against pacer Corey Collymore through the covers, Dippenaar's drive through extra-cover off Collins, and Dippenaar's drive off slow bowler Chris Gayle that sailed over long-off for six, were so brilliant that although they were made against their beloved West Indies, the fans enjoyed them and showed their appreciation at least up to when they drifted into silence after realising that the West Indies did not have a chance.
Smith and Dippenaar were not the only ones to enjoy themselves at the expense of the West Indies bowlers so too did Kallis, 51 not out off 68 deliveries, and Herschelle Gibbs, 40 not out off 36 deliveries with three fours and two sixes after joining the action at 189 for two in the 35th over when Smith drove at medium-pacer Dwayne Smith and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Courtney Browne.
At one stage, however, after recovering from 56 for three in the 16th over and before losing five wickets for 21 runs in three overs, the West Indies did have a chance or so it appeared.
After winning the toss and electing to bat surprisingly so, the West Indies lost Wavell Hinds bowled off the inside edge by Makhaya Ntini for five at 29 for one in the sixth over, Gayle brilliantly caught by Gibbs at short extra-cover for 26 at 38 for two in the 13th over, and Brian Lara caught at deep mid-wicket by Dippenaar off Andre Nel for eight.
Ramnaresh Sarwan and captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul stood in the breach, however. They played some wonderful strokes, they posted 106 off 117 deliveries for the fourth-wicket, and with the crowd behind them to the extent that the South Africans must have thought, at least for a moment, that they were back home in Johannesburg's 'Bull Ring', it appeared that Ntini or no Ntini, they would bat the Windies into a winning position.
In his second spell, however, Ntini, the best of South Africa's bowlers with four for 46 off his 10 overs, removed Chanderpaul caught by Boucher for 49 at 162 for four in the 36th over, and in the first over of Shaun Pollock's third spell, Sarwan, three fours and one six off 111 deliveries, attempted to ondrive, missed, and was stumped down the legside for 72 at 191 for five.
With Dwayne Smith going great guns, however, and Dwayne Bravo playing a few good shots, the West Indies added 41 before Bravo went at Ntini and was caught on the long-off boundary for 14 at 232 for six in the 46th over.
Nine runs later, Smith who struck four fours and two sixes, including one over wide long-on off Ntini, swung at Charl Langeveldt, was bowled for 46 off 37 deliveries at 241 for seven in the 47th over, and that was that.
While their batsmen played some delightful strokes and at one stage looked threatening, the West Indies bowlers failed to bowl more than a handful of good deliveries and never looked threatening.