THE Proteas made a confident start to their 2011 World Cup campaign when they beat Group B rivals the West Indies by 7 wickets with 43 balls to spare at Delhi on Thursday.
Imran Tahir made a stunning first appearance for the Proteas with the best World Cup debut figures for South Africa of 4/41 – the previous best was Allan Donald’s 3/34 against Australia in 1992 – to help bowl the West Indies out inside the 50 overs for a very gettable 222 runs.
The West Indies were well on target to make somewhere between 250 and 270 when they reached 113/1 in 23 overs on the back of an impressive innings of 73 off 82 balls from their least experienced batsmen, Darren Bravo. But they then lost 8 wickets for 100 runs against some outstanding bowling from Tahir as well as a clinical dismissal of the tail from Dale Steyn (3/24 in 7.3 overs) including danger man Kieron Pollard first ball.
The Proteas were in early trouble in their reply when they lost both Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis inside 5 overs with only 20 runs on the board but Man of the Match AB de Villiers and off colour captain Graeme Smith rebuilt the innings with a third wicket partnership of 119 in 24 overs.
De Villiers and JP Duminy then closed out the match with an unbroken stand of 84 in 14.2 overs.
De Villiers finished unbeaten on 107 off 103 balls with 8 fours and 2 sixes while Duminy made 42 off 53 balls with a solitary boundary.
It was De Villiers’ second World Cup century – equaling the SA World Cup record of Herschelle Gibbs – and his 10th overall. He is the fourth South African behind Gibbs, Jacques Kallis and Gary Kirsten to score 10 or more ODI centuries. The World Cup record of 4 centuries is jointly held by Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly of India as well as Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh of Australia.
De Villiers can expect to play at least another two World Cups if not more and is only just starting to come into his prime.
Duminy also reached a landmark of 2 000 ODI runs.
The margin of victory gave the Proteas a positive run rate of 0.77 which could be important when it comes down to qualification for the quarter-finals. It puts them in second place in Group B behind India and ahead of England.
The result apart, February 24, 2011, will always go down as a watershed day for the Proteas when they changed the way for ever that South Africa will play limited overs cricket.
They discarded the conservative route of old that has never worked in major tournaments of packing the side with all-rounders and a one-dimensional attack.
For the first time there were three specialist spinners in the side plus two part-timers while the top six batsmen were given the responsibility of making enough runs.
The tactical change has not only changed the way the Proteas play but has reinvigorated the captaincy of Smith. He made no fewer than 15 bowling changes which must be something of a record for South Africa and excelled by the manner in which he moved Tahir in and out of the attack.
Most of the West Indies batsmen were unable to pick Tahir’s googly which he turned sharply from his high arm action.
The Proteas can no longer be considered either one-dimensional or predictable and they have developed a new style of play that augurs well for the rest of the tournament as well as the years ahead.