Sunday, February 3, 2008

South Africa complete 5-0 whitewash

Herschelle Gibbs smashed 102 from just 84 balls as South Africa swept the series against West Indies 5-0...

Herschelle Gibbs' bristling 102 and a classy 74 from Jacques Kallis took South Africa to their fifth win of the series, whitewashing West Indies who were soundly beaten by eight wickets in Johannesburg. With 26 runs needed from 34 balls, out marched Shaun Pollock to carry his side home for the last time and, with a flay past point for two, the fairytale was complete.

Initially set 296 before two rain interruptions, South Africa found the going tough in their first five overs. In dank conditions, the ball nibbled around for Daren Powell and his opening partner, Ravi Rampaul, and Graeme Smith, for the umpteenth time, edged one onto his stumps as he played across the line. Gibbs continued to look out of sorts, as he has done all series, scratching around unconvincingly to the disciplined lines of West Indies' opening attack.

And then the rains came. After an hour's break, the players resumed for six balls before a more sustained torrent forced them off for longer, while also reducing South Africa's target to 211 from 31 overs. Out came the sun, and in the next five overs Gibbs took the attack to West Indies in a breathtaking display of power-hitting.

Up until that moment he had made 10 runs from 23 balls, but two consecutive fours off Powell got his feet moving before he laid into Dwayne Bravo, lofting him over long-off for a huge six and flaying another past point. In five overs, South Africa mowed 66 runs and West Indies were falling apart. Their bowling was ill-disciplined and nervy; their fielding, at times, a shambles, especially Runako Morton, who twice let the ball through his legs for fours. These are the factors which have ultimately cost them the series.

Quite by contrast, West Indies' batting has steadily improved with each match and today's effort was particularly impressive, tinged with end-of-term frolicking. Devon Smith fell nine short of his maiden one-day hundred and batted fearlessly throughout, cracking 10 fours and lofting three huge sixes. When he and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were together, West Indies had every hope of setting South Africa a total well in excess of 300.

West Indies' 100 was brought up in the 16th over, as Chanderpaul busied himself rather anonymously in contrast to Smith, with a selection of nudges and well judged singles. And as the pair's hundred partnership was brought up from just 87 balls, West Indies were in control.

With distinct inevitability, it didn't last. Eyeing his maiden one-day hundred, Smith edged Charl Langeveldt to Boucher for a bristling 91. And two overs later, Langeveldt trapped Chanderpaul leg-before with a fine, inswinging delivery to leave West Indies' frail middle-order with work to do. South Africa - a bowler short when Andre Nel limped off with a hamstring injury after three overs - worked their way through the middle-order before Rawl Lewis carved 28 from 18 balls, including three massive sixes off the sub-par Dale Steyn, to set the hosts a testing total.

It wasn't enough, though, and in spite of the earlier rain, a near-to-capacity Bullring cheered on Pollock for one last time. After creaming Rampaul for four through the covers, he flayed him for two down to third man to seal the win, complete a 5-0 whitewash for his team and conclude an outstanding career.