Johannesburg: The West Indies, written off as a declining world power in cricket, shattered South Africa's dreams of a winning start to the 2003 World Cup when it pulled off a thrilling victory in Cape Town on Sunday. The three-run win, achieved in an enthralling match which proved the perfect curtain- raiser to the six-week tournament, also managed to heap shame on England whose constant dithering over its scheduled match in Zimbabwe has turned its own preparations into a farce.
Brian Lara, returning to action after a five-month lay-off, set the tone for the game with a breathtaking 116 off 134 balls as his team made 278-5 in front of a packed Newlands. It was man-of-the-match Lara's 16th One-day century but his majestic efforts looked at one stage to have been in vain as South Africa's Lance Klusener, the man-of-the- tournament four years ago in England, unleashed his heavy artillery smashing 57 to edge his team closer to the target.
But once Klusener was out, caught by Windies skipper Carl Hooper off the bowling of Vasbert Drakes in the final over, the game was up, and the 25,000 crowd was stunned into silence. The match proved the perfect tonic to the headache caused by England's shoddy attempts to solve the crisis over its February 13 match in Harare.