New Delhi, Feb 24: AB de Villiers smashed an unbeaten century and debutant Imran Tahir scalped four wickets as South Africa launched their cricket World Cup campaign with a comfortable seven-wicket win over West Indies in a Group-B league match here today.
The South Africans first restricted the Caribbeans to 222 all out and then relied on de Villiers' unbeaten 107, his 10th ODI ton, to rattle up the runs with 43 balls to spare at the Feroze Shah Kotla. The Proteas scored 223 for three to garner two points.
The 31-year-old Pakistan-born Tahir also made a memorable World Cup debut to claim four key wickets and return with impressive figures of 10-1-41-4 while paceman Dale Steyn was the other successful bowler with 3/24.
Darren Bravo (73) was the top scorer for the West Indians who never really got to take control of the innings after being put in to bat by South African skipper Graeme Smith.
The Caribbeans failed to recover from the early jolt of losing their opener Chris Gayle in the very first over and although Devon Smith (36), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (31) and Dwayne Bravo (40) got the starts, they could not translate them into a big knocks.
After Tahir took the bowling honours, de Villiers took centrestage with a superb display of strokeplay on what appeared to be a good track at the Feroze Shah Kotla, hosting its first match since December 2009 after the India-Sri Lanka ODI was abandoned because of a "dangerous" pitch.
The South African innings began on a disastrous note as they lost opener Hashim Amla (14) and veteran Jacques Kallis (4) early to be reduced to a precarious 20 for two within five overs.
Paceman Kemar Roach drew first blood for the West Indians by dismissing Amla who edged the ball to wicket keeper Devon Thomas. The South Africans asked for a referral and the television umpire upheld the decision.
But the Proteas suffered a huge jolt when Kallis, who has been a vital cog in their batting, was snapped up by Sulieman Benn who began the bowling operations for his team.
It was a gem of a ball from Benn which accounted for Kallis' dismissal as the right-hander went for cover drive but only succeeded in edging the spinning delivery to Darren Sammy at the lone slip.
The dashing AB de Villiers, who joined his captain Graeme Smith after Kallis' dismissal, launched a counter-attack to unsettle the Caribbeans and the strategy paid dividends to some extent as the duo brought up the 50-run partnership in just 55 balls.
Both Smith and de Villiers played sensibly and soon added 100 runs for the third wicket without taking too many risks. While the captain played the anchor's role, de Villiers went for the runs at the other end.
The third wicket partnership yielded 119 runs before Pollard provided the breakthrough by getting rid of Smith. Smith's 45 came off 78 balls and contained two boundaries.
After a brief rain interruption, de Villiers completed his century with a single off Pollard while J P Duminy also scored at a brisk pace at the other end.
Earlier, the Caribbeans could never recover from the early jolt of losing Gayle in the very first over.
South Africa opened the bowling with spinner Johan Botha and the move paid dividends straightaway as he accounted for dangerous Gayle in the very third ball of the innings.
Gayle tried to play on the leg side but only succeeded in edging the ball to Kallis at the slip.
Smith and Bravo steadied the innings after the early jolt by playing cautiously but were quick to dispatch the loose deliveries to the boundary.
While Bravo was the more aggressive of the two batsmen, unleashing a flurry of shots on both sides of the wicket, Smith was quite content in playing second fiddle and giving strike to his partner.
The duo brought up the 100-run partnership for the second wicket in 19.4 over and put the Caribbean innings back on track as the South Africans tried to break the stand.
Just when West Indies seemed to be cruising along, the Proteas struck three vital blows to unsettle them again with leg spinner Tahir doing the damage on two occasions.
Devon smith (36), Bravo (73) and Ramnaresh Sarwan (2) were the three batsmen who returned to the pavilion in quick succession as West Indies suddenly slumped to 120 for four.
It was Botha who triggered the collapse by getting rid of Bravo who was looking quite comfortable at the middle.
Bravo looked to flick a well tossed up delivery but missed the line and was trapped leg before. He went for the referral but the television umpire also ruled him out.
Smith was the next to depart as he offered a simple return catch to Tahir who made no mistake while Sarwan was trapped leg before to the same bowler a few minutes later.
It was then left to Shivanarine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Bravo to do the repair work. Bravo played his natural game and clobbered three huge sixes early in his knock.
The pair put on 58 runs for the fifth wicket before Bravo was run out after Chanderpaul made the mistake of calling him for a non-existent run. Bravo's quickfire 40 came off 37 balls and contained one boundary and three sixes.
Chanderpaul could not sustain the tempo as he fell victim to Tahir with Peterson taking a well-judged catch at the long on region.
The hard-hitting Kieron Pollard, who joined the action after Chanderpaul's dismissal, did not trouble the scorer at all as he perished in the very first ball he faced. PTI