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Tahir, Amla lead South Africa to big win

Legspinner takes side's best-ever ODI figures of 7 for 45 after opener scores century to defeat West Indies by 139 runs
Imran Tahir has been a revelation in terms of his consistency and the energy he brings to the side
Imran Tahir followed up a 23rd One-Day International hundred from Hashim Amla with a record-setting bowling spell that formalised a big 139-run victory for South Africa over West Indies on Wednesday (June 15) in St. Kitts, to catapult the team back up to the top of the table in the tri-nation ODI series in the Caribbean.

Tahir, the 37-year-old Punjab-born legspinner, grabbed 7 for 45 from nine overs, the best ODI figures by a bowler for South Africa, to be a shoo-in for the Player of the Match award, as West Indies failed to successfully chase 344 in the sixth match of the tournament under the lights on batting-friendly Warner Park surface.

Johnson Charles hit the top score of 49 and gave West Indies a typically rousing start with Andre Fletcher, but the South African bowlers – led by Tahir – gradually found their range and the home team’s batting crumbled under the weight of the chase.

“I was not aware of (the record), but I will take it any day,” said Tahir, who also became the fastest South African to take 100 wickets in ODIs. “Thanks to Cricket South Africa for the opportunity they have given me and all the beautiful people back home for their support and my family. 

“Every wicket on the international stage is special for me. I am quite pleased because I got an opportunity to bowl with freedom and do what I wanted to do with the ball, due to the total that the boys put on the board, and it was good to see things went well for us.”

The result meant that South Africa earned five points and returned to the top of the standings on 10 – one ahead of Australia, the other side in the tournament, with West Indies bringing up the rear on eight.

The tournament shifts to Kensington Oval, the “mecca of West Indies cricket” in Bridgetown, Barbados, where Australia will face South Africa on Sunday, before taking on West Indies two days later, who complete the preliminary competition against South Africa on Friday, with the final set for Sunday.

Amla had struck 13 boundaries in 110 from 99 balls and led a strong top-order batting effort, as South Africa ran amok to reach 343 for 4 from its allocation of 50 overs after being put in to bat. The bearded batting wonder reached the milestone when he squirted Kieron Pollard to point for a single, and shared a century opening stand with Quinton de Kock to give the South Africans a solid base for the onslaught.

After Jerome Taylor had de Kock comprehensively beaten and bowled for 71 from 103 balls in the following over, Faf du Plessis kept up the onslaught with 73 not out from 50 balls that included six fours and two sixes in tandem with Chris Morris, promoted to No.3, and AB de Villiers, the captain.

“It’s simple…I don’t think we bowled well,” said Jason Holder, the West Indies captain. “The pitch was far better than the previous game and I don’t think we bowled particularly well in the first Power Play – Jerome bowled reasonably well, but I was way off the mark and we paid for it.

“At the start of the game, you would take between 280 and 300 as a target, given the pitch and the dimensions of the ground, but they scored about 40 to 50 runs too many and we paid for it in the end.”

Charles and Fletcher gave West Indies hope that the chase might have turned out better when they put on 69 inside the first nine overs in typically dramatic fashion with a volley of audacious strokes. Each of the first six overs contained at least one boundary, but the introduction of Tahir, in particular, and Morris stemmed the flow of runs, and eventually led to the breakthrough when Fletcher was caught at wide long-on from a slog-sweep. From this point, the South African attack did not allow the West Indian batting the same luxuries and wickets fell at regular intervals, as the home side tried to keep up with the hefty scoring rate.

It slumped to 90 for 3 in the 16th over, after Charles was caught at long-off from a lofted drive off Tabraiz Shamsi, the  left-arm chinaman bowler,  in the 13th over and Darren Bravo was bowled from a loose drive at a slower delivery from Wayne Parnell.
From there, South Africa  continued to tighten the screws and seized the initiative when Denesh Ramdin was caught at long-leg off Shamsi from a top-edged sweep and Marlon Samuels, the hero of the chase against Australia two nights ago, feathered a catch to the wicketkeeper off Tahir, leaving West Indies 128 for 5 in the 23rd over.

Holder came to the crease and put on 41 with Pollard for the sixth wicket to stem the fall of wickets before he essayed a reverse sweep and was lbw to Tahir in the 34th over, triggering the slide that saw West Indies lose its last five wickets for 35 in the space of 30 deliveries. Earlier, Amla lived up to his pre-play challenge to the team that the top-order batting had to deliver for South Africa to stand any chance of winning, and keeping its chances of a place in the final alive. He put on 182 for the first wicket with de Kock that laid the groundwork for the rest of batting and also brought up his 1,000th run in ODIs against West Indies before he was caught at long-off from a lofted drive off Pollard in the 34th over to give the home side its first wicket.To everyone’s surprise, Morris appeared at No.3, but immediately after, de Kock was bowled by Taylor in the following over, leaving the visiting side 185 for 2.

Du Plessis arrived, but it was Morris that led the charge with a pair of fours and two sixes in a 26-ball 40 cameo that swung the tide before he was caught at deep midwicket off Carlos Brathwaite in the 41st over, setting the stage for a flourishing finish. De Villiers made his belated entry and with du Plessis plundered 64 from the next seven overs to take South Africa past 300 before was caught at long-off in the 48th over to become Pollard’s second wicket. Du Plessis charged to his 50 from 40 balls and remained unbeaten, as he beefed up South Africa’s total down the stretch with a few lusty blows.

West Indies was unchanged for the match, but South Africa brought back Morris and Shamsi for Kyle Abbott and Aaron Phangiso.
West Indies had won the tournament opener against the South Africans by four wickets two Fridays ago at the Guyana National Stadium, where it lost the second match against the Australians by six wickets two days later and South Africa bounced back with a 47-run victory last Tuesday.

Australia won the opening match of this leg of the tournament, when it prevailed over the South Africans by 36 runs last Saturday before the home team rebounded to clinch a four-wicket victory two days ago.

Click here to view the full scorecard.

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