Imran Tahir and JP Duminy spun a web which strangled the West Indies and gave the Proteas a 61-run win in the first rain-hit ODI against the West Indies in Durban on Friday.
After a vicious rainstorm, the West Indies were given a target of 229 to win off 33 overs by the D/L assessment, and that looked well within reach when Chris Gayle lashed out.
He knows only one way to play: force 10. He hammered five fours and two sixes (Morkel and Philander) off 24 balls for 41 of the 51 on the board. Then, emboldened by two fours off Dale Steyn, he tried to go too hard at one too many and edged to De Villiers.
It may have been the psychological shock of the talisman failing, or the fact that the West Indies were batting in a howling wind moving the ball about, but they could not regain any sort of influence.
Leg-spinner Tahir picked up 3-30 off six overs, while Duminy’s off-spin gave up only 25 off six.
Vernon Philander ended on a high by getting an edge off a wild slash to dismiss Andre Russell, who had just smacked him for two consecutive sixes. That was probably more satisfying than trapping Leon Johnson plumb lbw (0) and getting a faint edge to dismiss Darren Sammy (4). Steyn, too, ended with three wickets, but those including the tip of tail.
Earlier, the Proteas showed glimpses of what they could do.
Ignoring for the moment the loss of Rilee Rossouw, for his fifth nought in 10 innings, and Faf du Plessis (0), both to Jerome Taylor with 16 runs on the board, the harmony of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers was a sight to behold. Together they put on 99 runs off 81 balls, consistently at around a run a ball.
At that rate, Amla should never have attempted a second run in the 20th over. But he did, and the sharp return from Andre Russell flew like an Exocet missile to catch him well short. His 66 came off 66 balls with 10 fours.
Still, once Miller showed he was comfortable at the crease, the anxieties eased with every flash of his blade. He watched and waited for the first seven balls and then launched into Taylor with consecutive fours, followed by a towering six off Sulieman Benn over long on.
Another 123 was added to the total. at which point Miller misjudged a heave off a full and wide delivery from Jason Holder, holing out at deep point for 70 off 68 balls, with seven fours and two sixes off Benn.
At that point the door was open, but the West Indies slammed it shut. AB de Villiers went the following over by charging down the wicket to Benn and hoicking it to long on. He had 81 off 94, with just six fours, and should have had a hundred but he was looking increasing uncomfortable with cramp in the humid conditions. Two overs later Farhaan Behardien was gone for 12, run out by Russell who , as he did in the second T20 match, kicked the ball on to the stumps.
At 242-4 after the 40th over, the run rate dropped as fast as the wickets: JP Duminy (12) and Vernon Philander (4) making the lonely walk. When the rain came, the Proteas had lost five wickets for 41 runs. So much promised, so little delivered.
The second ODI is in Johannesburg on Sunday, starting at 10 am (SAST).