Daredevil De Villiers

A. B. De Villiers...a brilliant hundred.-PICS: S. SUBRAMANIUM

All eyes were on the Kotla pitch and it passed the acid test. De Villiers too appreciated it as he ran up a century. Over to Vijay Lokapally.

It was a test for the Ferozeshah Kotla. The pitch and the administration were under scrutiny. The pitch passed the test but the administrators faltered at many stages, beginning from the point of entry for the spectators and media alike.

For Venkat Sunderam and Andy Atkinson, entrusted the difficult task of getting the pitch ready for the World Cup, it was an arduous exercise. After the venue was banned in 2009 when the India-Sri Lanka one-dayer was abandoned, the Kotla stood disgraced.

When the last ball of the West Indies-South Africa match was bowled, the most relieved group at the venue was the ground staff. They had worked tirelessly, mostly under pressure, and their efforts were rewarded suitably. A big thank you from the two captains, Graeme Smith and Darren Sammy, for a job well done was the biggest reward that Sundaram and Atkinson would have received as pitch consultants.

The pitch suited the demands of the occasion. The ball came on nicely for the strokemakers and AB de Villiers revelled in playing drives on the rise. AB and before him Darren Bravo lit up the contest with some quality batting. Bravo rekindled memories of a Brian Lara with his gifted strokeplay. His attacking batting was a reminder of his immense talent and he stood out after West Indies lost Chris Gayle in the first over.

Imran Tahir... impressive World Cup debut.-

As Sammy observed, West Indies failed to capitalise on the good work done by Bravo. “We lost wickets from the 41st over when we should have capitalised and made the most of it,” said Sammy. He praised Bravo for his brilliant 73 off 82 balls, an innings that belonged to the top bracket. Much was expected of Kieron Pollard, but he fell cheaply.

AB was in his element. His natural style is to play shots and he did not curb his instinct. His stint with Delhi Daredevils must have come in very handy as he read the pitch well and progressed smoothly. His confidence in the middle was the highlight of his 105-ball knock of 107, one of the finest hundreds for a long time at the Kotla.

Dale Steyn... incisive.-

But the biggest gain for South Africa was leg-spinner Imran Tahir's impressive debut. His four wickets in three spells confirmed the Lahore-born slow bowler's potential to serve the team reliably. The South African decision to play three spinners was a well thought-out one. The team had prepared for it at the training session and off-spinner Johan Botha opening the attack was an indication of what to expect at this World Cup as captains are convinced that most playing surfaces would be on the slower side.

“But Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel got the ball to kick,” remarked Sunderam. The glint of pride in his eyes could not be missed!

THE SCORES

West Indies 222 in 47.3 Overs (D. S. Smith 36, D. M. Bravo 73, S. Chanderpaul 31, D. J. Bravo 40, D. W. Steyn three for 24, I. Tahir four for 41) lost to South Africa 223 for three in 42.5 overs (G. C. Smith 45, A. B. De Villiers 107 not out, J. P. Duminy 42 not out).