Shillingford’s bright debut
by GARTH WATTLEY
NO GOAL-SCORER today in the opening action of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa would be a happier man than Shane Shillingford was at the Queen’s Park Oval yesterday afternoon.
Presented with his West Indies cap by manager Joel Garner just before the first Digicel Test match made a belated start yesterday afternoon, his next biggest moment arrived with his 17th ball in Test cricket.
South African captain Graeme Smith prodded forward to a delivery spinning across him, got an outside edge and Dwayne Bravo – crouching at slip – made no mistake with the catch.
That set Shillingford off on a joyous run in celebration that ended with a hearty high five with the catcher.
On a day more of rain than cricket, the debutant from Dominica produced the highlight plays.
Within the space of 12 balls, the off-spinner, selected to form a dual spin attack with Sulieman Benn, got rid of Smith and his opening partner Alviro Petersen.
Petersen, who spent a little over two hours getting to 31, fell in similar fashion to his captain, edging a catch to Bravo.
Crucially, Benn also contributed the wicket of the prolific Hashim Amla. So, on a day when the weather allowed just two hours and 14 minutes of cricket, the West Indies ended with the advantage, South Africa closing on 70 for three.
There was more than one reason for Chris Gayle to be pleased with the score.
In the first instance, having taken the brave decision to play two spinners, the West Indies captain would have wanted South Africa to be batting last on the dry surface.
Instead, Smith called correctly.
With fast bowler Kemar Roach’s ankle eventually not proving strong enough to risk in this match, Grenadian pacer Nelon Pascal was given his debut, to partner Ravi Rampaul with the new ball.
That also meant that Darren Sammy yet again found himself the odd man out, along with Darren Bravo.
But nothing actually took place on the field until 2:39 p.m. because of intermittent showers that forced an early lunch and then the rescheduling of the new start of play at 12:40.
The slow tempo of the day did not change either once the cricket got going. Not at first. Intent on getting a good start, Smith and Petersen were cautious.
Pascal – who only got three overs – and to a lesser extent Rampaul were tidy, but did not get much movement either through the air or off the pitch, or hit the right length to trouble the batsmen.
It was not until the introduction of big Benn in the 12th over that the contest came alive.
After his dismissal from the field, fining and subsequent dropping for the fifth One-Day International because of his now infamous refusal to bowl over the wicket in the fourth match in Dominica, Benn has evidently quickly learned to do so.
Getting turn straightaway, he made left-hander Smith in particular look uncertain from that angle and also saw wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin drop Petersen when he was 23.
The combination of Benn (9-4-17-0) and first change Dwayne Bravo (8-4-12-0) built pressure on the openers, but by tea, taken with the total on 45, they had not been separated.
After the break Benn endured more frustration when umpire Steve Davis first declined his appeal for lbw against Petersen and then was not sufficiently moved by television umpire Simon Taufel’s advice to uphold Gayle’s quite legitimate challenge of his decision. Struck full on the boot between wicket and wicket, Petersen looked plumb out.
But things began to change for the Windies when the score reached 55. It was then that Shillingford (6-2-5-2) and Bravo got rid of Smith.
Five runs later, the prized wicket of Amla fell to Benn, as he too nudged to Bravo.
“Ah tell allyuh ah want Amla boy, ah tell allyuh ah want Amla. Aye! Aye!” nutseller Jumbo had said in the Learie Constantine Stand. He couldn’t believe he had been granted his wish.
And Shillingford gave him a bonus when Petersen unsuccessfully used the TV review system to challenge an lbw decision by Asad Rauf.
Bad light, first at 4:54 p.m. and finally at 5:35 gave the South Africans a reprieve. Jacques Kallis and nightwatchman Paul Harris will resume today – once the anticipated rain allows them the chance.
They will then have the strange task of repelling a pair of confident, bonafide West Indian spinners, a sight not seen since Roger Harper and Clyde Butts (now chairman of selectors) paired up in 1986.