Written By Rana G on Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 8:20 AM
By Bikash Singh --- Yahoo! Cricket
New Delhi: The story goes like this: Johan Botha started the attack for South Africa, Imran Tahir took four wickets on his debut, Sulieman Benn started the proceedings for West Indies, AB de Villiers scored a fabulous century and South Africa won the match. Nice and crisp.
And there was some rain too, towards the end -- not that it made any difference to anything.
The show piece for today was AB de Villiers, who loves batting against West Indies -- this is his third century against that particular opposition and 10th overall, and it helped fashion a convincing seven-wicket victory with 43 balls remaining. What makes AB invaluable is the fact that by keeping wickets, he allows his team the luxury of an extra bowler -- and coupled with his incandescent batting, that makes him SA's most valuable player by some distance.
Chasing 223 runs to win, South Africa had a forgettable start before Graeme Smith (45) and AB de Villiers dropped anchor. Reliable opener Hashim Amla was undone by a terrific delivery from Kemar Roach in the fourth over, and keeper Devon Thomas took a blinder diving full length to his left and Amla trudged back for 14 runs.
Like the Proteas had in the first session, West Indies too started the proceedings with spin bowling. Darren Sammy handed the ball to Sulieman Benn and big Benn was more than happy to oblige on the Kotla track. Jacques Kallis walked out at No.3 but Sulieman had other plans for him. The experienced all-rounder was beaten totally by Benn's delivery outside off-stump as Sammy pounced on a very low catch at slips. Windies roared in celebration, so did the crowd.
Smith and de Villiers kept their heads, despite those two quick wickets, with the later being more aggressive in his approach. AB de Villiers in the company of his captain breathed life back into the chase with some cracking boundaries. de Villiers brought up his half-century with a huge six over mid-wicket off Gayle.
The duo added 119 for the third wicket off 141 balls, but it was AB de Villiers who stole the show, mauling Windies attack patiently at his will. Smith was bowled by Pollard's slower one at the score of 45.
After Smith's dismissal, Duminy and de Villiers steadied the innings with their sensible knocks.
Earlier in the afternoon, the West Indies got off to a worst possible start at Feroz Shah Kotla. Opener and ex-captain Chris Gayle returned after a brief two-ball stay at the crease. Electing to field first, South African skipper Graeme Smith, much to the surprise of everyone, gave the white ball to Johan Botha and he brought early joy to the Proteas.
Botha tossed up a length delivery which turned away and dangerman Gayle managed to edge it to Jacques Kallis at first slip. But after that, West Indies got back on the track with an awesome batting display by young Devon Smith (36) and Darren Bravo (73).
Touted as the next Brian Lara, Dwayne's half-brother took the high-profile South African attack apart, striking eight fours and one six in an overwhelming show of class. He along with Smith stitched up a 111-run partnership to bail the Caribbean unit out of early trouble.
There was no denying the quality of Darren's innings but South Africans are always ready with Plan B, C and D. Smith brought fielders inside the circle, the players took some important catches, a suicidal run-out helped things along, and West Indies succumbed for 222 in 47.3 overs. The innings fell apart in the face of a lethal spell from Tahir and Steyn.
After Darren's fall, Windies were in unusual hands of less-known Imran Tahir. The 31-year-old leg-spinner, making his debut, took 4-41 as West Indies collapsed after being strongly placed at 113-2 in the day-night match.
Tahir was ably supported by Botha on a spinner-friendly Kotla track and captain Smith's decision to play three spinners was justified.
After the horrific run-out of Dwayne Bravo, West Indies' revival receded sharply. They lost wickets at regular intervals and once their most experienced batsman in Ramnaresh Sarwan (2) and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (31) were snapped by Tahir's precision - the story was cut further short.
"Graeme had a lot of confidence in me. I bowled well in the second spell, some days you have a bad day, some day a good one, today was a good day," Tahir said.
Once the spinners were done, paceman Dale Steyn gave a superb exhibition of fast bowling to rock West Indian tail and finish with 3-24 off 7.3 overs.
Graeme Smith mixed up his bowling options to pack West Indies cheaply in their World Cup Group B match at Feroz Shah Kotla. To add to their problems, Dwayne Bravo slipped and fell during his follow through, landed badly on his knee, and had to be helped off the field. Last heard from, he had been sent to the hospital for a precautionary X-ray.
It was also Feroz Shah Kotla's first international match after serving a one-year ban. Kotla was banned in December 2009 after an India-Sri Lanka One-dayer had to be cancelled because of a dangerous pitch.