He is neither South Africa’s first-choice limited-overs wicketkeeper batsmen nor their second so it was only fitting that Morne van Wyk, third in the queue behind Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers and overlooked for the World Cup despite topping the ongoing one-day cup run charts, became their third T20 centurion.
Minutes after an emotional celebration in which he ended up wiping tears from his eyes, van Wyk put team above self and clobbered South Africa to a total above 190 to ensure they did not squander their strong start.
“If we lose the game, my runs will not have been enough,” van Wyk said at the innings break. Luckily for him, they were.
South Africa stopped West Indies from completing a third successful chase and a series whitewash with an aggressive batting and assured bowling performance. Their task was made considerably less difficult by the unavailability of Chris Gayle, who was left nursing the back injury that kept him out of the Test series, but the hosts had niggles of their own which could have worked against them. David Miller left the middle order appearing even softer than usual, despite the earlier-than-planned return of JP Duminy, as he sat out with a back spasm but van Wyk ensured they did not have too much to do.
He single-handedly set South Africa up for victory by starring in their third century opening stand in the format, taking advantage of a careless display early on in the field from West Indies and showing patience while being pegged back to propel them to a match-winning total at the end.
It did not always look like it would be so well-scripted for South Africa. Sheldon Cottrell’s first two overs were strangling as he maintained a full length outside off and conceded just five runs but he lacked support. Carlos Brathwaite, who made his first appearance in the series, could not find his line and started down the leg side before over-compensating by offering too much width outside off. His confidence would not have been helped when Dwayne Smith put down a tough change at point after van Wyk got a leading edge. The opening batsmen was on 1 at the time.
Brathwaite had a second chance dropped when Reeza Hendricks offered Smith a much easier catch from the other end. Hendricks enjoyed more good fortune when he top-edged Brathwaite for six two balls later but then asserted himself over Ashley Nurse. The offspinner persisted with short balls even as he saw them dispatched by both Hendricks and van Wyk, who brought up 62 in the Powerplay and 86 by the end of the eighth over.
Taking pace off the ball was the right strategy though, as Bravo showed with slower balls and cutters. Between him and Marlon Samuels, only 22 runs came off the next four overs and Kieron Pollard cashed in on that squeeze. Hendricks holed out and South Africa promoted David Wiese to No. 3 to get big runs in a big way.
But van Wyk did that with more confidence, perhaps because he had assessed the pitch properly and waited for width or the wrong length to find the boundary. Wiese was yorked by Bravo at the end of the 18th over, with South Africa still well short of the 200 they seemed likely to get and it was up to van Wyk to get them there. He took 13 runs off Cottrell’s last over to get himself to 99.
Bravo hit him on the hip with a beamer as the final over began but van Wyk scrambled the single he needed to reach his milestone off the next ball, the 67th he faced. The emotions did not overwhelm Duminy, who returned after two months on the sidelines with a straight six before van Wyk plundered two more. The 23 runs South Africa scored at the end gave them a defendable score, although Lendl Simmons did his best to change that.
Batting in place of Gayle, Simmons did his best to imitate the Jamaican. He taught Marchant de Lange not to bowl even a fraction too short and handed Wayne Parnell the same lesson. Twenty-three runs came off Parnell’s opening over and West Indies were on track until spin was introduced. Smith may have been looking to target Aaron Phangiso but was bowled by a straight one and West Indies’ challenge all but ended there.
They had fizzled out by the time Wiese got going with the ball. He understood the surface required a different skill set and had the ability to pull it off. He foxed Samuels with a cutter, had Simmons caught on the boundary, Bravo caught behind off a top-edge, Darren Sammy at backward point and Brathwaite in the deep. That made him the second South African to claim a five-for in the format after Ryan McLaren and ensured van Wyk ended up with a century that was more than enough.