The West Indies attack had taken a pounding in the Super Eight stage so far, and here at St. George’s the South Africans spearheaded by AB de Villiers filled their cup of woe. For the third time, Brian Lara put the opposition in, and on each occasion, his bowlers were carted around for over 300 runs. He would have been heartened by the early wicket of his opposite number Graeme Smith, but from the moment Jacques Kallis joined De Villiers, it was a leather hunt all the way.
The start was cautious, with 27 runs coming in the first 9 overs. De Villiers hit two boundaries, albeit in unconvincing fashion, off Darren Powell in the 10th over, in an effort to provide the impetus. The pair took 15 runs from Powell’s next over. Kallis, smarting under renewed allegations of self-centred batting, was out to prove a point. Dwayne Bravo became the object of his ire.
Kallis slammed 3 fours and a six off that over, and suddenly overtook his partner. De Villiers himself turned his attention to Bravo a little later, cutting him powerfully to the boundary and then driving the next ball over long-on for a six. This brought up his half-century in 58 balls. Kallis himself posted his fifty off 46 deliveries.
The South Africans kept ticking the scoreboard over and once again De Villiers cantered ahead, and in the 33rd over drove Darren Powell twice through the covers into the fence. Kallis was finally bowled by Chris Gayle for 81 off 86 deliveries. The partnership was worth 170 in 28.2 overs. There was no respite for the hosts as De Villiers brought up his maiden One-day hundred in 114 balls. In the next over, he began to suffer from cramps and Smith came on as a runner.
De Villiers decided to go after the bowling, sensing that he could not stay at the crease for too long. Gayle came in the way next over, and De Villiers carted the first ball over mid-wicket for a six. Herschelle Gibbs struck a boundary, and Se Villiers went down the track to the last delivery and lofted it over long-on for another six. Ramnaresh Sarwan was meted the same treatment as he slammed two consecutive deliveries into the stands over mid-wicket before dabbing the last one behind point to the boundary. In Bravo’s next over, De Villiers hit two fours past point.
He finally holed out for 146, having faced 130 deliveries and hit 12 fours and 5 sixes, having added 70 in 47 deliveries with Gibbs. Mark Boucher came in and promptly pillaged fifty off 21 balls, one more than the fastest by Brendon McCullum in the World Cup. Lara took his power play only in the 45th over. It cost 77 runs. South Africa hammered 123 runs in the last 10 overs, finishing up with 356 for four.
Hard as the West Indies tried, not the least by way of Sarwan’s 92 and Powell’s rollicking unbeaten 48 at no.10, they were beaten by 67 runs. It was De Villiers who had put them out of the game. He paced his innings brilliantly, crowning it with a flurry of fours and sixes.
“I was the guy in at the moment and it was probably easier for me to hit the boundaries and I was seeing the ball well,” De Villiers recounted. “Just getting a runner, I decided to push through.” Lara could only reflect ruefully, “AB de Villiers played a magnificent hand and once he got cramps he actually proved more dangerous as he decided to go aerial.”
South Africa 356 for 4 wickets (50 overs), West Indies 289 for 9 wickets (50 overs) (CWC 2007)
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