West Indies 161 for 2 (Lewis 71, Gayle 32*, Shamsi 1-27) beat South Africa 160 for 6 (van der Dussen 56*, de Kock 37, Allen 2-18, Bravo 2-30) by eight wickets
A week is a long time in international sport.
West Indies went from being completely outplayed in the Test series to completely outplaying South Africa in the opening T20I of the five-match series. West Indies had successfully chased down a target of 160 or more at home only once before this match - against India in 2017 - but on Saturday, they reached the total with five overs to spare.
They made South Africa's total of 160 look insufficient and forced Temba Bavuma, in his first match as T20I captain, to consider team balance and strategy. South Africa went into the match with six specialist batters, a spin-bowling allrounder, three seamers and a specialist spinner, a combination that did not seem to work for them on the day. West Indies do not need to think too much about their line-up, because the top four did the job with the bat before their attack, with a mix of youth and experience, limited South Africa to a gettable total.
Left-arm spinner Fabian Allen enjoyed the best return of any of the bowlers and was well supported by left-arm seamer Obed McCoy and offspinner Kevin Sinclair alongside senior bowlers Jason Holder, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo. But it was Evin Lewis who stole the show. His 71 off 35 balls batted South Africa out of the match and gave them some questions to consider ahead of the second fixture in less than 24 hours.
Fabian Allen's career-best
West Indies chose to introduce spin as soon as they could, opening the bowling with Sinclair and bowling Allen in the fourth over. While Sinclair's second over cost 17 runs, Allen had almost immediate success. Reeza Hendricks advanced down the track to meet the fourth delivery Allen bowled but the ball snuck between the bat-pad gap and hit his off stump. Allen celebrated with a signature dance move that he may have wanted to bring out several more times. He appealed for lbw after Rassie van der Dussen missed the reverse sweep and was hit on the pad and Kieron Pollard agreed to review but replays showed the ball was going over the stumps. Allen was brought back in the 12th over, with South Africa well on their way to 100 runs, and had Temba Bavuma caught at deep square leg, off the sweep, to end an innings that seemed well set. Allen conceded just 18 runs in his four overs at an economy rate of 4.50, the best in the match.
van der Dussen's fifth fifty
In Faf du Plessis' absence, van der Dussen proved to be the glue that kept South Africa together. He survived an lbw appeal off the second ball he faced and went on to play an attractive array of strokes, mostly on the leg side. van der Dussen's first boundary was a deliberate guide through third man and he went on to slog Bravo and Russell through square leg, pull Bravo over midwicket for six, and sweep McCoy over midwicket and through fine leg. He finished unbeaten on 56 and was, by some distance, South Africa's most accomplished batter of the innings.
Evin Lewis' 1000
Chris Gayle is the quickest West Indian batter to get to 1000 T20I runs, in 34 innings, and Lewis is right behind him, reaching there in his 35th innings. Lewis opened his account with a pulled six off George Linde, and then smacked Kagiso Rabada over midwicket for four to become the sixth West Indian to reach 1000 T20I runs. He went on to flick Rabada for four more and then hook him for six before plundering 20 runs off Lungi Ngidi's opening over. He reached his half-century off 22 balls, with a glorious six down the ground off Ngidi. This was Lewis' fifth T20I fifty in less than 25 balls. His career strike rate of 158.20 is also the second-highest, a fraction behind Glenn Maxwell's, among batters with at least 1000 T20I runs.
Running out of options
South Africa's XI contained only five bowling options but with West Indies on 93 for 1 at the halfway stage, they decided to try something different. Very different. Though Hendricks has turned his arm over at first-class and List A level, he had never bowled a ball in T20 cricket, never mind T20Is but was tasked with delivering the 11th over. Gayle sent Hendrick's first ball back over his head and his second over midwicket for successive sixes before taking a single to give Lewis strike. Lewis hit another six and took a couple and Hendricks' over cost 21 runs, the most expensive among the South African bowlers. In all, West Indies hit 15 sixes, South Africa just five.