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New day, new defeat

HAYDN GILL in Antigua

New day, new defeat

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THE first part of the Digicel Series between West Indies and South Africa was shifted from Trinidad and Tobago to Antigua because of general elections in the twin island republic tomorrow.If the West Indies cricketers were to face the polls today, chances are they would be voted out of office.After a third defeat in four days at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium yesterday, some Caribbean fans have lost all confidence in Chris Gayle’s team who might be hardpressed to save their deposits if they were to go before the electorate.They lost the first Digicel One-Day International by 66 runs, but even before a ball was bowled, one unkind spectator said the only thing West Indies were capable of winning was the toss.Morning rainFor the third successive match, Gayle had the luck of the coin call, but West Indies lost everything else on a day that began with morning rain that delayed the start by half-hour and later took off a further 36 minutes.South Africa, riding on quality centuries by Hashim Amla and A.B. de Villiers, punished an ineffective attack in marching to 280 for seven from 48 overs on a pitch that was far more suited to this form of the game, in comparison to the track two strips away that batsmen did not enjoy in the Twenty20 double-header.The early stages of West Indies’ response seemed to suggest they were still in Twenty20 mode and it was hardly a surprise that they were dismissed inside the distance for 215 with still another 3.5 overs available.Captain Chris Gayle appeared to have an afternoon appointment elsewhere, playing with a sense of adventure in banging 45 off 39 balls. There were some authentic strokes but there was always an element of risk in his approach.The left-hander survived chances on eight and 20, the first from a hard pull low to square-leg and the other from a skier when he was dropped at mid-wicket. Gayle, however, was not third time lucky and ended up hoisting a catch to mid-on in the 13th over.By then, Andre Fletcher and Dwayne Bravo were already back in the hut and hopes of a West Indies win were at a minimum, bearing in mind the absence of the injured Shivnarine Chanderpaul.Fletcher, relieved of wicket-keeping duties with the return of Denesh Ramdin, failed again in front of the stumps. When he edged a loose drive to second slip, he fell for his third successive single-digit score and 14th in his last 20 innings in West Indies colours.Bravo replaced him at No. 3 and, like Gayle, scored at better than a run-a-ball, racing to 15 off ten balls before chopping a ball into his stumps.After Gayle went, a measure of what is expected in the longer limited-overs version of the game returned with a fourth-wicket partnership of 59 between Ramnaresh Sarwan (38 off 59 balls) and Narsingh Deonarine (26 off 48 balls).Big-hitting Kieron Pollard, who played a few attractive strokes in 44 off 37 balls, and Denesh Ramdin added 52 for the sixth wicket, but West Indies would have needed two batsmen to play a major role in the same way that Amla and de Villiers did for South Africa.Wristy strokesAmla, appearing in his first match on tour, got South Africa out of the blocks at a good clip, playing neat wristy strokes on the way to his 102 that came from 109 balls and included eight fours.DeVilliers was positive throughout his third successive ODI century and his run-a-ball 102 contained five fours and two sixes.Neither batsman was tested by a threadbare attack in which Bravo was the only bowler who posed a threat.Jerome Taylor was off colour and conceded more than six runs an over, while Darren Sammy wasn’t given the ball again after he was lashed for 25 from two overs.It meant that Gayle had to give almost everyone a chance and West Indies turned to as many as eight bowlers.As harsh as it sounds, the high point of their effort in the field was a remarkable one-handed diving catch by Gayle at square-leg towards the end by which point the damage had already been done.It came at a time when West Indies had managed to stem the flow of runs to the extent that South Africa managed only 61 from the last ten overs when they were on course for a total of more than 300.