De Villiers earlier continued his one-man mission to redefine limited overs batting with the quickest century in one-day internationals on Australian soil (52 balls) and the fastest 150 ever in the 50-over format (64 balls).
Utilising his full repertoire of strokes in an awesome display of batting, he flogged the West Indies bowlers with eight sixes and 17 fours in a 104-minute knock that will live long in the memory. His last 50 runs came off just 12 balls and brought the 23,612 crowd at a sun-bathed Sydney Cricket Ground to their feet chanting “AB!, AB!, AB!”.
South Africa were desperate to kickstart their campaign after their 130-run defeat to India in their last Pool B match and de Villiers ensured they would. The 31-year-old shared stands of 134 runs with Rilee Rossouw (61), 48 with David Miller (20) and an unbeaten 80 in 3.2 overs with Farhaan Behardien to turn around his country’s innings after West Indies had made a promising start to the match.
West Indies captain Jason Holder, who had bowled two maidens, taken one wicket and conceded nine runs in his first five overs, ended up with figures of 1-104 after giving up 64 runs in his last two overs.
Caribbean hopes of any kind of riposte to the carnage wrought by de Villiers rested largely in the hands of Gayle, who had contributed to his side’s good start by taking two wickets in the 30th over to reduce South Africa to 146-3.
The 35-year-old opener had faced just three balls, however, when he took a huge swing at a Kyle Abbott delivery and lost his leg stump.
The West Indies soon looked like the demoralised rabble that lost their tournament opener to Ireland with only Dwayne Smith (31), Denesh Ramdin (22) and Holder (56), with his maiden ODI half century, offering more than token resistance. Spinner Imran Tahir finished with figures of 5-45 to become the first South African to take a five-wicket haul in a World Cup match.