Imran Tahir delivered the best ODI ever figures by a South African of seven for 45 as South Africa easily defended a massive 343 for four to claim a bonus point and go top of the tri-series table after the last game of the St Kitts leg of this intriguing tournament.
Hashim Amla set things up with a quick-fire 110 that took the game away from the West Indies as they slumped in the field after electing to make the visitors bat first. The home side stumbled to 204 all out in reply.
Amla and Quinton de Kock (71 off 105 balls) put on 181 runs for the first wicket as the Windies struggled to find any purchase on a good batting deck on a hot day in Bassetere. Amla averages over 90 against the West Indies and he notched up his 1,000th run against his favourite opposition. The opening pair then fell in quick succession and the Proteas made the surprise move of sending in Chris Morris at number three as a pinch hitter in the 34th over.
It seemed irrational to hide captain AB de Villiers in the pavilion but Morris and a hugely impressive Faf du Plessis (73 off 50 balls), also back from injury, made merry as they added 60 runs in six overs at exactly the stage of the innings where teams have struggled on this Warner Park wicket. A De Villiers cameo of 27 runs took the side well past 300.
The West Indies started with gusto as Johnson Charles (49) and Andre Fletcher (21) got off to a flier but once they both holed out to the spinners the West Indies lost all momentum and their run rate dwindled as wickets continued to fall. It is uncanny how no side in this triangular format has managed to win consecutive matches and the home side were true to form as they ensured that all three teams would leave the island with two wins and two losses to their name.
South Africa spun a sticky web around the Windies middle order and Tahir, who was almost rewarded with a hat-trick, as he chiselled away at the batting order and kissed the turf, running circles around the square with his hand on his heart and badge in vociferous celebration.
He was ably assisted by the left-arm chinaman bowler Tabraiz Shamsi (2-41), who has now had two wonderful starts in a green shirt. Shamsi’s appeals match Tahir’s celebrations and the South African selectors will be licking their lips at the prospect of many more tandem overs from the spin twins. Aaron Phangiso, however, will likely struggle to get another start this tournament.
The action moves on to the Kensington Oval in Barbados for a final round of round-robin matches before the final on Sunday, 26 June. All three teams have won two and lost two games but South Africa have two bonus points, Australia have one and the West Indies have none. It’s all to play for in Barbados when South Africa and Australia meet this Sunday.
Nick Sadleir at Warner Park