Twice between overs 15 and 20 in this deciding T20I at the Grenada National Stadium on Saturday, different South African bowlers had a chance to take three wickets in three balls. Neither did.
But thwarting the hat-trick could not prevent Kieron Pollard’s eighth-placed World T20 Champions West Indies from going down by 25 runs and seeing Temba Bavuma’s sixth-placed Proteas walk away with a 25-run win and a 3-2 victory in the five match series.
Not for the first time, the WI batsmen let themselves down, reaching only 143 for 9 after setting out in pursuit of a modest 168. The result meant that South Africa claimed both trophies up for grabs in the tour, Dean Elgar’s men’s having registered a 2-0 victory in the Test series.
Pollard proclaimed—complained?—that his batsmen had ‘made the same mistakes over and over again’, failing to learn the necessary lessons in the course of the five matches.
He could find little fault, however, with his bowlers, who once more found a way to keep the target within reachable limits after Bavuma won the toss and decided to take first strike. Bavuma himself, promoted to open with the impressive Quinton de Kock, made no impression, going caught low down at slip by Chris Gayle off the third ball of Fidel Edwards’ opening over.
For the next 14 overs, the nearest the WI would come to separating de Kock and Man-of-the-Match Aidan Markram would be via the run-out route. The pair put on a record 128 for the second wicket, Markram (70 off 48 balls) outscoring his boundary-hitting partner to be first to his half-century off just 34 balls.
De Kock (60 off 42 balls) also needed only 34 balls to get to his third half-century of the series before he departed, holing out to Andre Russell at long-off off Edwards.
De Kock, Player-of-the (two-Test)-Series, finished with an aggregate of 255 runs in five innings but it was not enough for him to cop a second Player-of-the-Series title. That honour went to left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who would again befuddle the WI batsmen to register match figures of 4-0-11-1 and an arguably series-deciding aggregate of 20-0-80-7.
Shamsi was not one of the two bowlers—Wiann Mulder in over number 15 and Kagiso Rabada in over number 19—with hat-trick opportunities. But he conceded 5, 3, 1 and 2 runs respectively in overs 6, 8, 12 and 16 and claimed Gayle’s scalp into the bargain.
Evin Lewis registered another half-century, putting on a 24-run opening partnership with Simmons (3 off 6 balls) and a 45-run second- wicket partnership with the 42-year-old Gayle (11 off 9 balls), a huge disappointment in this series.
Though not quite as consistent as de Kock, Lewis (52 off 34 balls) was undoubtedly the best of the WI batsmen in this series and he and Hetmyer took the score to 75 in the ninth over before they were separated.
With his side needing someone to get them close to the line, Pollard, not Nicholas Pooran, replaced the departing Lewis. Perhaps the WI were unfortunate that, in attempting to complete a quick single with Hetmyer in over number 15, the skipper pulled up lame.
Hamstrung, he failed to clear Markram on the long-off boundary and departed for just 13 off 15 balls just when his side needed him to accelerate the scoring, which is what he habitually does.
Not this time.
From a shaky 110 for four at the skipper’s demise, the hosts could manage only another 33 runs off their last five overs. Russell (0 off one ball), Hetmyer (33 off 31), Dwayne Bravo (1 off 2) and Pooran (20 off 14) all self-destructing under the weight of increasing scoreboard pressure.
The South Africans might also have been expected to motor along from 128 for 2 in the 15th over to something well past the 160’s where the team batting first has ended up throughout this five-match series. However, they seemed to have left their hand brakes up.
Making a complete mess of a slower ball from the fast-learning Obed McCoy, Markram fell well short of what would have been a deserved century. After that, despite the loss of only one more wicket, only 40 more runs came off the last five overs, which has been the pattern since the second game last Sunday.
Edwards claimed two of the four while Dwayne Bravo (1/28) and McCoy (1/31) finished with one each. But their batsmen failed to turn up when WI needed them to.
Bavuma sang the praises of his team, whose fielding has been something to behold throughout the series. For example, Simmons flicked the first ball of Rabada’s first over, the second of the innings, wide of Lungi Ngidi at short square-leg. The pacer flung himself low to his right to reach the ball but grassed the chance.
Still half-lying on the ground, he flung the ball at the batsman’s wicket, just missing it. Had he managed to hit his target, Simmons would have been out by a yard or two.
Pollard praised two bowlers, 21-year-old off-spinner Kevin Sinclair and 24-year-old McCoy, but mentioned no batsmen with whom he was pleased. Nor did he name names of any player with whom he was dissatisfied although he did hint that there are changes coming before the Australia white ball series starts in a week or so.
It is probably pointless to speculate. But one could not help notice that both the players for whom he had positive words of encouragement were in their low twenties.
Toss: South Africa
South Africa: 167 for 4 (A. Markram 70, Q de Kock 60, E Edwards 2/19)
West Indies: 142 for 9 (E. Lewis 52, S Hetmyer 33, W. Mulder 3/32, L Ngidi 3/32, K Rabada 2/24)
Man-of-the-Match: Aidan Markram
Player-of-the-Series: Tabraiz Shamsi
Result: South Africa won by 25 runs; win series 3-2