West Indies
prepared exclusively for Caught At Point by Prashant Kumar Banjare

Since its inception, ODI cricket has seen some great runs chases, most notably South Africa’s thrashing of Australia’s 434 at Johannesburg in March 2006. But it ought to be said, run chases and the West Indies haven’t always had a romantic tie.

Although the famous Caribbean side won two consecutive world cups in 1975 and 1979 and in the subsequent decades were anything but a force to be reckoned with, at times, they demonstrated that they could defeat anybody on a given day.

They showed one and all that given their mercurial and unpredictable brand of cricket, they could do what was just unexpected.

A similar though memorable incident takes us two decades back in the day and concerns a run chase that took place this very date, albeit in 2004.

For it was on February 1 2004, where the West Indies beat a top-notch South African side at Centurion in chasing down 297 runs in 45 overs.

An ODI total of 297, lest it is forgotten, is a pretty arduous task even in the contemporary firmament of cricket. That the West Indies did that with 5 overs to spare was indeed remarkable.

And what made the feat even more justifiably exciting was considering they hadn’t won anything on that dismal tour and got bowled out for 54 in the first ODI, would you believe it?

Against this narrative, this victory felt truly remarkable and highlighted West Indies’ ability to achieve anything provided they put their minds to it.

Here’s how things panned out.

South Africa won the toss and chose to take strike fast on an excellent batting surface, and the likes of Gibbs dominated the West Indian attack straight from the beginning, scoring 50 runs in the first ten overs. But Dillon picked up Gibbs’s wicket to stop the run flow, providing his team with a crucial breakthrough.

One of the many talented all-round cricketers produced by the Proteas was Robin Peterson. As soon as he joined his skipper in the middle, he immediately gave his team an advantage by playing some audacious strokes, but Gayle picked skipper Graeme Smith‘s wicket  to break the threatening partnership.

A game of persistent breakthroughs amid a barrage of runs was taking over.

When Peterson too fell to Ravi Rampaul, the momentum shifted towards the West Indies. But, truly speaking one just couldn’t take things for granted against South Africa, as they were always a group of fighters.

Boeta Dippenar and Jack Kallis forged a crucial partnership of 82 to put their team back on  track. Following Dippenar’s dismissal to Sarwan’s leg spin bowling, Klusner joined Kallis and both batted aggressively in the last overs to give South Africa a big total of 297.

King Kallis remained unbeaten at 95 proving his class, while West Indies used six bowlers, all of whom contributed one wicket each.

The scene then shifted to the Caribbean respnse and now it was up to their batters to help them overcome what was a monumental total. And boy, they didn’t disappoint.

The opening combination of Gayle and Chanderpaul both struck bowlers all around the park to start the run chase briskly. Although Gayle, the aggressor, was tripped up by Pollock, the run flow continued because Ricardo Powell played some handsome strokes to keep the required run rate under control.

After Powell went for a breezy 34, Sarwan joined Shiv in the middle and they both played nicely and mixed it up well by playing some big strokes and rotating strikes to sustain the pressure on bowlers, Chanderpaul was particularly harsh on loose stuff from bowlers, while Sarwan showed a silky touch with his willow.

When it looked like the West Indies would canter to an easy victory, Shivnarine was caught behind off Pollock for 92, raising hopes that the South Africans could return to prominence. The Windies are prone to collapses, so the bowlers must have believed that they had a chance, but skipper Brian Lara had other ideas as he immediately got into the groove by scampering for quick runs as well as his trademark drives and pulls.

Sarwan needed only 79 balls to bring up his half-century, smashing three fours in the process. On the other hand, Lara was relentless against the bowling attack, putting them under consistent pressure. With only 33 deliveries, he also attained his half-century quite easily – comprising four fours and a six.

He celebrated this milestone in a truly remarkable fashion with an extraordinary shot that was nothing short of mesmerizing. He blasted the bowler Andre Nel off his legs for a huge six and then rubbed salt in his wounds by smashing a couple of fours in the same over, sealing victory for his side.

Both Sarwan and Lara had an undefeated day, with the courageous Guyanese making 77 runs whilst the Trinidadian maestro Lara scoring 59. But, it was the monk of patience Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who was the main driving force behind West Indies’ victory as he top scored with 92 off 75 balls, hitting 10 fours and 2 sixes in the process.

As a result, he deservedly won the Man of the Match award. But guess what? It’s outings like these that must inspire the present day West Indians to do the unthinkable for with the likes of Mayers, Hope, Holder, Pooran and Powell, well and truly speaking, no total is beyond their reach provided they believe they can do it.

But the question is- are they willing to believe in themselves?


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