A unique cricketer

S. DINAKAR

FROM one dressing room, there were shouts of happiness, and much singing. From the other, there was a numbing silence.

Alan Dawson wins the match for South Africa with a four off the last ball from Mervyn Dillon.-N. BALAJI

The South Africans were cock-a-hoop at the Sinhalese Sports Club Stadium, while the West Indians were down in despair.

Mervyn Dillon was just one delivery away from glory for himself and the West Indies, when he sent down a wide, and what could have been a heady victory turned into a nightmarish defeat.

In pursuit of West Indies' 238 for eight in 50 overs, South Africa - docked one over for slow over-rate - was 236 for eight in 48.5 overs when Dillon, who had already picked up four wickets, wilted under the pressure.

The South Africans in the middle - striker Nicky Boje and Alan Dawson - stole a run as the ball travelled to the 'keeper and the Proteas required just one off the final delivery, courtesy Dillon's wide. Dawson steered the last ball to the third man fence and Shaun Pollock's men had seized an amazing victory from the jaws of defeat.

It had been a dramatic final over, with Shaun Pollock striking the first ball over long-on for a six, but Dillon hit back dismissing the South African captain and Lance Klusener before it boiled down to the last ball...or the one after that.

N. BALAJI

N. BALAJI

Jonty Rhodes, who brought a sense of urgency to the South African innings, spanks Mahendra Nagamootoo. Jacques Kallis breaches Ramnaresh Sarwan's defence.

Earlier, the West Indians, inserted, sparkled in patches, the innings moving in fits and starts. Chris Gayle, a southpaw with elegance, made a strokeful 55-ball 49, while the other opener, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, gobbled up 98 balls for his 45; there appeared to be little planning in the West Indian approach.

The Big Guns, Brian Lara and captain Carl Hooper, got starts but could not make that count for the West Indies. Lara (21) holed out to Donald at long-off off left-arm spinner Boje, and Hooper was trapped in front by Pollock.

And it was only a brisk 36 from an equal number of deliveries from Ramnaresh Sarwan and a hard-hitting 25 from wicket-keeper batsman Ridley Jacobs that enabled the West Indians to reach a moderate total.

Yet, the West Indian score was below par for a pitch where there were runs for a batsman once he survived the early phase - the Caribbeans were at least 20 runs short, runs that could have been so easily achieved had the frontline batsmen applied themselves.

This much was conceded by Hooper after the match - "I thought we got 15 to 20 runs less on this pitch. We should have batted better in the middle overs..." It was Chanderpaul's slow pace of scoring that pegged back the run-rate during the stage Hooper was referring to.

N. BALAJI

N. BALAJI

Captain nails captain. Shaun Pollock traps his counterpart Carl Hooper leg before. Vasbert Drakes gets rid of Jacques Kallis.

It was also a disciplined performance by the South African bowlers and fielders. Pollock, able to gain considerable lateral movement early on, was particularly impressive while Allan Donald showed there was some spark left in him still.

When the South Africans began the chase, Dillon yorked dangerman Herschelle Gibbs for eight and, both opener Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis perished after promising to settle down.

Boeta Dippenaar, stroking fluently off his legs and driving with aplomb, and the fighting Jonty Rhodes added 117 in 143 balls, and at 178 for three the South Africans appeared to be coasting towards a victory when Hooper turned the contest on its head, dismissing Dippenaar (53) and Rhodes (61) in one over. There was some turn in the surface and Hooper had picked up his third wicket.

In the event, the sixth-wicket stand between Mark Boucher and Lance Klusener was a crucial one, the duo adding 41 off just 43 balls, and keeping South Africa in the race.

However, just when it appeared that the two would take South Africa to its goal, Dillon rearranged Boucher's stumps, and the match had taken another twist.

Finally, it all boiled to the last over, when South Africa required 13 for a win, and got there in a tension-packed finish.

For the West Indies, it was a tale of missed chances. They were so near, yet so far in the end, and, looking back, Hooper's decision not to give Pedro Collins his full quota of 10 overs might have cost his team victory. Collins bowled nine overs for 39, and when the finish was going to be tight, a reasonable over from him towards the end could have made all the difference.

The scores:

West Indies: C. Gayle c Boucher b Donald 49; S. Chanderpaul c Dippenaar b Dawson 45; B. Lara c Donald b Boje 21; C. Hooper lbw b Pollock 27; R. Sarwan b Kallis 36; W. Hinds c Kallis b Donald 12; R. Jacobs c Pollock b Kallis 25; M. Nagamootoo (run out) 10; V. Drakes (not out) 0; M. Dillon (not out) 1. Extras (lb-4, nb-1, w-7) 12. Total (for eight wkts. in 50 overs) 238.

Fall of wickets: 1-63, 2-107, 3-153, 4-153, 5-191, 6-220, 7-236, 8-237.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 10-1-35-1, Dawson 10-1-51-1, Donald 8-0-44-2, Kallis 9-0-41-2, Boje 7-0-34-1, Klusener 6-0-29-0.

South Africa: H. Gibbs b Dillon 8; G. Smith c Jacobs b Hooper 33; J. Kallis c Jacobs b Drakes 10; J. Rhodes b Hooper 61; B. Dippenaar c Nagamootoo b Hooper 53; M. Boucher b Dillon 23; L. Klusener c Chanderpaul b Dillon 23; S. Pollock c Chanderpaul b Dillon 10; N. Boje (not out) 0; A. Dawson (not out) 4. Extras (b-1, lb-3, nb-6, w-7) 17. Total (for eight wkts. in 49 overs) 242.

Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-50, 3-61, 4-178, 5-179, 6-220, 7-234, 8-236.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 10-1-60-4, Collins 9-0-38-0, Hooper 10-1-42-3, Drakes 8-1-36-1, Nagamootoo 9-0-41-0, Gayle 3-0-21-0.

THE sheer brilliance of his fielding often takes our attention away from his batting. It's a pity since Jonty Rhodes is just the kind of batsman who can leave the opposition rattled during pressure situations.

Technically, he may not please the purists, but Rhodes is a busy customer, who keeps the scoreboard moving with ones and twos, pushes the ball into the open spaces, can hit the ball hard when the occasion demands, and is an outstanding runner between the wickets.

A cheeky player, he is also someone for whom it's quite difficult to set a field to. An extraordinary fielder he certainly is, yet Jonty Rhodes has to be given his due as a batsman too, especially in one-day cricket where innovation becomes such a crucial element in a cricketer's repertoire.

Rhodes' 70-ball 61 at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground once again brought to the fore his combative streak when the chips are down. The Proteas were 61 for three when Rhodes joined Boeta Dippenaar and he gradually gave Carl Hooper a lot to think about.

His scorching square-cut off leg-spinner Mahendra Nagamootoo showed he had adjusted quickly to the bounce and pace in the pitch. Rhodes is probably the best player of spin in the South African side, and apart from the cut and the pull, his sweeps invariably knock a spinner off his line and length.

When paceman Vasbert Drakes pitched on the middle and leg, Rhodes made the most of it, twice flicking the bowler to the midwicket fence. He reached a rollicking half century off 62 balls (six fours) and his presence served as a very good influence on the young Dippenaar; there is so much positive energy in Rhodes.

The two set about repairing the innings. Rhodes was very much the senior partner, walking up to Dippenaar and offering him words of encouragement.

This was the brightest phase of the South African innings, and had Rhodes and Dippenaar continued for five more overs, we might never have had an exciting finish to the game.

By the time Rhodes went for an extravagant drive off Hooper and was bowled in the process he had got to the highest individual contribution of the Match. Rhodes' 61 included eight well struck boundaries.

Rhodes' innings in an edge-of-the-seat thriller fetched him the Man of the Match award. He wasn't entirely happy though. "I should have finished the match for South Africa." That's Rhodes for you. Always striving to offer more to the side.