TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
A perfect game. If all the analysis of SA’s performance in their triseries match against West Indies in St Kitts on Wednesday had to be pruned to three words, that’s what they would be.
Hashim Amla scored 110 in an opening stand of 182 with Quintin de Kock, who overcame problems with his timing well enough to make 71. Then Faf du Plessis threw a seamless 73 not out into the mix.
All of which was good enough to negate the weirdness of waiting until the 41st over, once three wickets had fallen, to send AB de Villiers to the crease.
The first wicket fell in the 34th over, a prime time to unleash De Villiers – the No. 1 ranked batsman in ODIs. Who took guard instead? Chris Morris – who is ranked 188th. That said, Morris did a decent job in his 40 off 26 balls. But he is not De Villiers. No-one is.
Despite that decision SA put up 343/4. Only in 20 of their 556 ODIs have they totalled more. Then they dismissed the Windies for 204 in 38 overs to win by 139 runs and leap from last to first on the log.
Rather, Imran Tahir dismissed the Windies. His 7/45 from nine overs are the best figures in an ODI for SA, and they made him the fastest bowler to reach 100 ODI wickets for the country. Tahir got there in 58 games.
He also joined a snooty club. Of all the 2286 men who have bowled in the 3747 ODIs played only 10 have taken seven or more wickets in an innings and just five have done so in fewer than 10 overs.
SA’s total was the biggest by any team in the six matches played in the triseries. It was also the first time in four games in the tournament that SA’s batsmen have pulled their weight.
Tahir said so diplomatically when he told reporters in St Kitts of having “the freedom to bowl whatever I wanted to because the boys put a decent total on the board”.
And that against a West Indian team who, as recently as Monday, beat top-ranked Australia by four wickets.
“They are attacking players and we know that,” Tahir said of the home side. “When someone attacks you there is always an opportunity and that’s what I look for.”
Like anyone else who dares to twirl an arm in white-ball cricket, Tahir is shackled by bowling restrictions that seem to become more absurd every time the International Cricket Council hold a meeting. But he wasn’t complaining.
“It is a big challenge as a spinner to play modern-day cricket. It’s good as well because that makes you perfect.”
A perfect game indeed. Even the suits got something right.