West Indies reflect on 'Black Friday' loss to South Africa By Tony Cozier in COLOMBO
Stabroek News
September 15, 2002

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THE West Indies have another couple of days before their second, surely last match in the ICC Champions Trophy against Kenya on Tuesday. But it will take a lot longer to overcome the shock of their last-ball loss to South Africa Friday that effectively put them out of the tournament.

"I've seen the team depressed before but I'd say the reaction after that defeat was the worst," Ricky Skerritt, who has witnessed several disappointments in his time as manager over the past two and a half years, said yesterday.

"It was a key match and everyone was really up for it," he noted. "To have defeat snatched away in that way was very hard to take, as you can imagine."

With South Africa needing three to win off the last ball, Merv Dillon sent down a leg-side wide off which the ninth wicket pair, Nicky Boje and Alan Dawson, stole a bye to level scores.

Dawson then won the match by edging the last ball to the third man boundary.

"We tried to put something of a positive spin on it at our team talk at the end by reminding ourselves that, in the space of three days, we had come very close to beating the two top teams in the world," Skerritt said.

They took Australia into the penultimate over before losing a warm-up match by six wickets on Wednesday.

"In the end, you can't hide the fact that close isn't good enough and that we had only ourselves to blame for throwing it away [against South Africa]," he said. "Merv's wide was decisive, yes, but there were a few other mistakes at vital moments."

Ironically, the West Indies have previously stood up to late pressure well and won all five matches that have gone down to the wire over the past couple of years.

They took three wickets in the final over, bowled by Chris Gayle, to beat England by three runs at Nottingham in 2000 and got past Zimbabwe by one wicket in the 49th over in Brisbane in January, 2001, on Ricardo Powell's unbeaten 83.

Last year, Ridley Jacobs was the batsman each time as they defeated South Africa off the last ball in Kingston and Zimbabwe with one ball remaining in Bulawayo.

In their previous one-day international in St.Vincent in June, they beat New Zealand off the last ball as Shivnarine Chanderpaul took 14 off the last over.

Skerritt said the resolve after Friday was to make practice sessions even more approximate match situations.

While that is more or less the aim most of the time, the shorter form of the game demands special attention for such essentials as how best to bowl the final overs and how to keep the score ticking over in mid-innings.

Captain Carl Hooper commented on the sluggish scoring rate in mid-innings on Friday when Shivnarine Chanderpaul struggled to compile 45 off 98 balls, 65 of them scoreless.

"After 20 overs, we were 90 for one and we should have got another 15 to 20 runs," he said. "There was a period when we didn't play with any degree of urgency."

But even at that, the West Indies should have won.

"The way the match panned out, with 27 to get off the last three overs, you would have thought that was enough," he said. "You can always be wise after the event. We've just got to learn from this."

Chairman of selectors, Sir Viv Richards, who joined the team here Thursday and will be with them through their subsequent tour of India as well, wondered whether Dillon was the right choice for bowling at the death.

"If he wants to carry the mantle of the man, he's got to prove he's up to it," he said. "You start to have thoughts [after Friday's last over] of whether he can manage it."

"Merv's the one who's looking to become the man because we really haven't had anyone at this point to spearhead the attack but he just didn't get the job done," he added.

Apart from saying he would rather Dillon had "bowled a legitimate ball and be smashed for four or six", Hooper had some sympathy for his main fast bowler.

"Obviously there was a lot of pressure out there and it was probably the first time he had been put in that situation," he said. "He's probably just got to learn from it."

The West Indies need an unlikely sequence if they are to qualify for the semi-final as the only team from their pool of three.

They must defeat Kenya on Tuesday and then depend on Kenya to beat South Africa for the first time in the final pool match two days later.

In other words, Friday's staggering setback has effectively put them out of the tournament. To add to their woes, it also cost them US$50,000 in prize money.

One way or another, Friday September 13 was, indeed, Black Friday.