An imperious 22-ball fifty by opener Evin Lewis underlined an utterly dominant performance as West Indies crushed South Africa by eight wickets with five overs to spare, to win the opening Twenty20 International in Grenada on Saturday.
Chasing an uncomplicated 161 for victory at the Grenada National Stadium, West Indies flexed their muscle with the left-handed Lewis lashing 71 off 35 deliveries, to post his seventh T20I half-century and surpass 1 000 runs in the format.
He put on 85 off 42 deliveries for the first wicket with Andre Fletcher who struck a 19-ball 30 while veteran left-hander Chris Gayle emerged from a slow start to belt an unbeaten 32 off 24 balls, in an unbroken 37-run stand for the third wicket with Andre Russell who made 23 not out from 12 deliveries.
Sent in earlier, the Proteas got an unbeaten 56 off 38 deliveries from Rassie van der Dussen as they started well, but then stuttered to end on 160 for six off their 20 overs.
Opener Quinton de Kock chipped in with a breezy 24-ball 37 while captain Temba Bavuma got 22 off 20 balls but no other batsman managed to pass 20.
Left-arm spinner Fabian Allen was excellent with two for 18 from his four overs while veteran medium-pacer Dwayne Bravo claimed two wickets in the penultimate over, to finish with two for 30 from his four overs.
“Winning the game with overs to spare and wickets in hand I think that’s a start for us,” West Indies captain Kieron Pollard said afterwards.
“But it’s just one game of a five-match series so we can’t get too much ahead of ourselves.”
De Kock struck a brace of fours and sixes to engineer a 33-run, opening stand off 22 deliveries with Reeza Hendricks who counted two fours and a six in scoring 17 off 11 balls before advancing to Allen in the fourth over, checking his shot and having his defensive stroke breached.
Bavuma struggled early on, leaving de Kock to carry the bulk of the scoring but his enterprise ended when he punched the fourth ball of Russell’s first over to mid on, where Jason Holder took a low catch at 61 for two in the seventh over.
Van der Dussen joined Bavuma to add 34 for the third wicket – the best stand of the innings – but the partnership required 27 deliveries and South Africa were only 86 for two at the half-way point.
Bavuma, who struck three fours, was increasing the tempo when he picked out Lewis at deep square off Allen in the 12th over.
Van der Dussen then took responsibility for the innings, crunching four fours and two sixes as South Africa gathered 74 runs from the last ten overs.
Facing a straightforward required run rate of eight runs per over, the warning signs flickered early when Lewis launched the first of his seven sixes over mid-wicket, off the fifth delivery of the first over bowled by left-arm spinner George Linde.
And he continued his assault in the next over from Kagiso Rabada, smashing two leg-side fours and a six in an over which leaked 15 runs and put South Africa on the back foot.
Lewis, who counted four fours overall, moved into the 40s with two successive sixes off pacer Lungi Ngidi in the fourth over before reaching his landmark with an astonishing straight hit for six off the same bowler in the seventh over.
Not to be overshadowed, Fletcher punched three fours and two sixes before Ngidi’s direct hit at the bowler’s end ended his knock in the eighth over, and Lewis added a further 39 with Gayle before finally holing out to long off in the 12th over off left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi.
Gayle’s first 12 balls yielded a mere four runs but he then opened up with two consecutive sixes off Hendricks in the 11th over, the off-spinner’s only over gushing 21 runs.
Promoted to four with the home side’s win all but assured, Russell put the finishing touches on by blasting a four and three sixes – the last of which easily cleared the mid-wicket fence off Ngidi and ended the game.