| Brian Lara after completing his century against South Africa at the Newlands on Sunday. (AFP)
Cape Town: Brian Lara rescued his team from a near-hopeless situation with a masterly century as West Indies made an astounding recovery to post 278 for five in the opening game of the World Cup against hosts South Africa here on Sunday.
The West Indies pulled off a dramatic three-run win in the opening match of the World Cup. South Africa, chasing 279 in 49 overs, managed 275 for nine. Lance Klusener’s typically swashbuckling 57 (off 48 balls) was not enough to save the day for the hosts.
Coming when the West Indies were two wickets down for seven in the seventh over, Lara batted beautifully till the 46th to almost single-handedly pull his side out of the rut. He scored 116 — his 16th one-day and second World Cup hundred — from 134 balls with 12 fours and two sixes before being caught by South African captain Shaun Pollock off Makhaya Ntini.
Lara got able support from Shivnarine Chanderpaul and captain Carl Hooper before Ricardo Powell and Ramnaresh Sarwan came up with explosive knocks towards the end.
The Caribbeans blasted an amazing 110 runs from the last ten overs to compensate for their slow start which saw them scoring just 30 runs from the first 15 overs.
Powell remained unbeaten on 40 from just 18 balls, hitting five fours and a six while Sarwan’s 32 not out came off 15 balls with two fours and two sixes.
The hammering that they took in the slog overs spoiled the figures of the South African bowlers who had an impressive start to the match. Pollock, who conceded just nine runs from his first six overs while dismissing openers Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds, finished with figures of two for 52 from his 10 overs, mainly due to the 23 runs taken by Powell in his ninth over.
Pollock had given a fine start to his team after the West Indies had elected to bat. He bowled a very tight line and length in the company of Ntini, who returned the best figures of two for 37.
The West Indies openers struggled to put bat to ball and the first runs came off wides in the fourth over. Pollock then sent back Hinds (0) and Gayle (2) in successive overs to throw the West Indian innings into disarray.
But Lara and Chanderpaul produced just what was required, weathering the storm through singles before stepping up the heat around the 30th over mark. It was South Africa’s warhorse Allan Donald who provided the West Indians the opportunity to step on the accelerator.
Donald was taken for a lot of runs by Chanderpaul, who hit him for a boundary each in the bowler’s first three overs before Lara lofted him for a straight six.
The lone spinner Nicky Boje also came in for punishment with Lara hitting him for two boundaries in his first over.
Lara reached his half-century off 78 balls with five fours and a six and then broke loose. He took 12 runs from Boje’s third over as the Windies crossed the 100-run mark in the 30th over. But just when the things started going for the West Indies, Klusener produced the breakthrough by having Chanderpaul caught by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. (PTI)