LONDON // Herschelle Gibbs may have spent the majority of the past year clinging on to his status as an international cricketer, but he has done an impressive job of retaining the limelight in the meantime. As brightly as Wayne Parnell, the promising Proteas fast bowler, and the livewire West Indies all-rounder Lendl Simmons shone, they were upstaged by the 35-year-old Gibbs at the Oval yesterday.
The unbeaten South Africans maintained their relentless progress through the World Twenty20 with a ruthless 20-run win over the West Indies, set up by a spark-ling half-century from Gibbs. The veteran has the highest score by a South African in 20-over cricket to his name - the 90 he made against the same opposition in the inaugural World Twenty20 - but he had been quiet so far in this series. Before his half-century here, he had accrued a mere 31 from three innings.
He has had little call to serious action, so smooth has South Africa's progress been so far in the competition. Jacques Kallis, the most consistent batsman in the tournament to date, added another 45 to his aggregate here, using up just 31 balls in the process. AB de Villiers, whom the South Africa coach Micky Arthur stated on UK radio earlier in the day that he would become "the best batsman on the planet" within two years, was not even required to repeat his heroics of earlier in the week.
Gibbs eventually finished on 55 from 35 deliveries, before becoming one of three victims for Jerome Taylor. He hit two sixes, one of which measured 90 metres, and fell when he skied a catch which Chris Gayle juggled before pouching at extra-cover. Much attention was paid to Gayle, as always, when the West Indies batsmen emerged in pursuit of their distant victory target of 184. Just as he did the previous evening in the win over India, he fell before being able to light the fuse on his pyrotechnics.
Yet again, his young side proved they are more than just a one-man band, and Simmons confirmed his growing reputation with a second successive half-century. Across London, his uncle Phil Simmons had spent the morning assisting Ireland - of whom the former Test all-rounder is head coach - with their preparations for playing Sri Lanka today. Hopefully he was back at the team hotel to see his nephew in action, because his innings was a gem.
When he departed for 77, made from 50 balls, any hopes the Caribbean side had of hauling in the total went too. One player stood out above the rest for the South Africans with the ball. Parnell, in his last year as a teenager, impressed yet again. Just over a year ago, the left-arm seamer was leading South Africa's under 19 side in a tournament in Malaysia. The Oval, Vauxhall, London, is somewhat of a step up from the Oval, Kinrara, Kuala Lumpur, which would have been peopled by few more than a few non-plussed Malay spectators.
Yet, in his short career so far Parnell has proved little fazes him about running in to bowl yorkers against the world's most destructive batsmen in front of packed stands. His spell of 4-13 from his allocated four overs here was one of the best in the short history of international Twenty20. That certainly must be a very satisfying performance for Parnell who believes Twenty20 is not a game for bowlers.
"I actually believe this is a batsmen's game, but if you bowl really well you can get wickets. I have developed those yorkers over the last 10 months." His captain Graeme Smith was also pleased as ever having won six matches in a row in the format. "To post 180 was a good effort, we slowed down a bit with their good bowling but it was a good effort overall. "We have won six in a row now, hopefully we won't lose again until after the tournament," Smith said.