THE GLUM LOOK of defeat covered Chris Gayle’s face for the fifth straight time yesterday afternoon.
It was a look that was shared by many of the fans inside the Queen’s Park Oval.
Trying strenuously to defend 252, West Indies were again robbed of that winning feeling in the final over, as No.11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe lashed the fourth delivery from Kieron Pollard past the infield to the extra cover boundary, when just two more runs were needed for a South African victory.
It meant that the visitors had won the fifth and final Digicel One-Day International (ODI) by one wicket and that another ODI whitewash of West Indies had been completed.
In this match in particular, Gayle must have keenly felt the loss, because his side had again come very close this time, playing perhaps their most consistent game of the series.
His batsmen, mainly through the half-centuries of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Narsingh Deonarine, had put a competitive total on the board.
And after Man Of The Series Hashim Amla (45, three fours, one six) and Man Of The Match Jacques Kallis (57, five fours) appeared to be laying the platform for a comfortable win, the quartet of Gayle himself (10-1-38-2) – filling the quota of the dropped Sulieman Benn – Jerome Taylor (8-0-36-1), Dwayne Bravo (10-0-73-2) and Kieron Pollard (9.4-0-42-1) so checked the scoring that the balance in the closing overs had swung towards the Windies.
It did not help at all that the bowling spearhead Taylor was forced off the field with what appeared to be a back injury with two of his overs still to go; neither did the two boundaries Bravo conceded in the penultimate over.
It meant that just seven were needed in the final over. It was a task that was virtually completed after the first ball of that over when van de Merwe swung Pollard to the square-leg boundary.
Tsotsobe completed the misery for a holiday crowd of around 9 000 that had gradually been brought to life by their team’s dogged effort.
There was a similar gradual build-up of tempo in the West Indies innings.
Please, God, Anything But Singles was the request on a banner in the sparsely populated Dos Santos Stand. The plea for fours and sixes entertainment was clear. But those fans had to bide their time.
The slow Oval strip was not going to easily reward carefree hitting. That was the last thing the home team needed as they sought a total to defend after Gayle won the toss.
Instead, the Windies produced a workmanlike display. All eight batsmen who went to the crease got into double figures and the Guyanese left-handers Chanderpaul (67, 104 balls) and Deonarine (53 not out, 53 balls) distinguished themselves with half-centuries at important times.
Chanderpaul held the early part of the innings together, sharing in partnerships of 51 for the third wicket with Darren Bravo (17, 47 balls) and 41 for the fourth with Darren’s older brother Dwayne (26, 37 balls, one six, one four).
Darren in particular, playing his first international match on his home ground, was never able to build momentum and perished trying to do so, falling to a very sharp leaping catch by Mark Boucher – playing his first match of the series, but as a batsman – at short extra-cover as Bravo drove at left-arm spinner van de Merwe.
Chanderpaul himself had taken 16 balls to get off the mark after he had replaced opener Dale Richards (19 off 19 balls) who fell to a Jacques Kallis slip catch as left-arm seamer Tsotsobe changed his angle going over the wicket for the final ball of the fourth over.
It was not the angle but the slow nature of the surface that got Gayle (12) who played his pull shot at Ryan McLaren too early and sent a simple catch to his counterpart Graeme Smith at mid-on in the 11th.
With the assistance of the two Bravos, however, Chanderpaul was able to consolidate. When Dwayne Bravo was deceived and bowled by a Tsotsobe delivery that hit off-stump, the score had moved on to 137 for four in the 35th over.
Deonarine, back in the side as one of two changes from the fourth ODI, was now at the crease, ready to take up his shift for the rest of the innings.
Around him, Pollard 25 (18 balls, one four, two sixes) and Darren Sammy (19 not out, nine balls, two fours, one six) put bat to ball – hard!
Pollard brought the crowd alive and pleased the folks with the banner with a mighty pull at a Kallis full toss which fairly rocketed onto the roof of the first tier of the Dos Santos Stand.
He followed up next over with a straight hit down to the Brian Lara Pavilion off McLaren. And Sammy gave the innings a rousing finish with his six over long off in the last over, off Langeveldt. In fact, 91 runs came off the last ten overs.
The West Indies looked to have given themselves a fighting chance. But at game’s end, their fight still had not prevented a “washing”.