Sunil Narine’s 6-27 inspired West Indies to a four-wicket victory over the Proteas in their Tri-nations series opener on Friday.
Narine became the first West Indian spinner to take a six-wicket haul in ODIs to run riot through the Proteas’ innings, and prove instrumental in the tourists stumbling from 160-3 to 188 all out. It was the fourth-best West Indian bowling figures of all time, and South Africa’s worst total against the islanders since 1992.
The South African spinners played their part in giving their side a glimmer of hope in the chase, but that soon ended thanks to Pollard, who blasted five sixes in his half-century to ultimately make it a comfortable victory.
AB de Villiers won the toss and chose to bat first on a slow deck in Guyana, and with both sides opting to use two frontline spinners, it was clear that the pitch was expected to offer some turn, and it certainly did for Narine.
Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock strode out to the crease for the 50th time together, becoming the third pair to do that for the Proteas, and they displayed their experience appropriately, strolling to a fifty stand inside the first 10 overs. De Kock would be the first to go, bowled for a 34-ball 30 by World T20 star Carlos Brathwaite.
Narine had his first wicket two balls later as Amla was forced to walk back too. He was trapped lbw, for one of four wickets to fall in this manner by the mystery spinner.
Rilee Rossouw and De Villiers knuckled down from there, but it was slow going and it took an agonising 118 balls for them to find the first boundary. As soon as Rossouw did that, De Villiers departed for a frustrating 31 off 49 balls.
It was from that point that the real Narine carnage started. Rossouw brought up his fourth score of fifty or more against West Indies, but he couldn’t push on and get a third century against them as Narine got one to spin the other way, forcing the edge to slips for 61. He then trapped Farhaan Behardien on the back foot two balls later.
The Proteas lost the last four wickets for seven runs as the tail had no answers to the Narine onslaught. Brathwaite weighed in with two wickets of his own to bowl them out 19 balls short of the allotted overs.
The response was a scratchy one from Windies openers Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher. Charles offered two chances in the first Kyle Abbott over, as De Kock put a sharp opportunity down three balls in, before one flew over Amla’s head at first slip two balls later.
Abbott and Kagiso Rabada bowled well without reward upfront, but there was plenty of reward for Imran Tahir, who struck in his first over. He clean bowled Fletcher for 11, and did the same to Charles (31) with another googly a few overs later.
Aaron Phangiso joined in the very next over to see off Marlon Samuels for one, and at 53-3, the hosts were in a bit of bother. Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin steadied matters with 23 runs in the next seven overs, but another spinner got in on the act, this time JP Duminy, to claim the wicket of Ramdin for 10.
Pollard appeared completely unfazed by the precarious situation his side were in, however, bludgeoning a six off the second ball he faced. He then proceeded to smash two more off his next three deliveries, to put his side in a commanding position in a matter of minutes.
He provided the majority of the runs in the 76-run stand between him and Bravo, as it took him just 45 balls to reach his eighth ODI half-century, cementing a successful return to the international setup for Pollard and Narine.
A couple of wickets fell around Pollard as Phangiso finished with career-best ODI figures of 3-40, but a couple more lusty blows from Pollard saw him finish on 67 not out, and with that, the victory.
Australia await the Windies next on Sunday.