/ 28 December 2007

Proteas fight back against Windies

South Africa salvaged some pride by taking six wickets for 26 runs in the last session on the third day of the first Test against the West Indies on Friday. At close of play, the West Indies were 146-8 for an overall lead of 359 runs.

South Africa resumed play on 122-6, with all hopes of achieving some respectability resting on veteran wicketkeeper Mark Boucher and the young AB de Villiers putting together a good partnership to pull South Africa out of trouble. But 13 balls into the morning’s play, Boucher got a top-edge to a ball from Jerome Taylor, which ballooned into the air and was neatly caught by Darren Powell. He was out for 20.

De Villiers and Titans teammate Paul Harris shared a stand of 43 before De Villiers was bowled for 59 by a beautiful delivery from Dwayne Bravo, which removed his off-stump. It was De Villiers’s 12 Test 50, and on his way he scored his 2 000th Test run.

Having got rid of De Villiers, Bravo proceeded to mop up the South African tail, with Harris caught by Taylor for a patient nine off 61 balls before lunch. The spin bowler had been at the crease for an hour and 40 minutes.

Bravo needed just seven balls after lunch to bowl South Africa out for 195.

Andre Nel was caught by Daren Ganga off the third ball after lunch, and Dale Steyn was caught by Powell off the first ball of Bravo’s next over. Bravo ended with figures of 4-24 off 13 overs and one ball.

Although South Africa had failed to reach the 209 runs needed to avoid the follow-on, Chris Gayle decided not to ask them to bat again. When he hit Steyn for 19 runs off his third over, it appeared that he was embarking on another run spree, so there was great jubilation when Makhaya Ntini had him caught behind by Boucher for 29.

Jacques Kallis struck another blow when he had Runako Morton leg before wicket for five off his first delivery, but Ganga and Marlon Samuels got together and piled on the runs at a steady pace. Ganga and Samuels shared a third-wicket partnership of 65 before Ganga was brilliantly run out by a direct hit from Herschelle Gibbs for 45, and Samuels went out in the next over, bowled by Steyn for 40.

Paul Harris got the next breakthrough when Gibbs leapt in the air to take the catch that sent Bravo back to the dressing room for five. Four balls later, Steyn took his second wicket of the innings with Kallis taking a low catch to dismiss Shivnarine Chanderpaul — who frustrated South Africa for nearly seven hours in the first innings — for just eight runs. Darren Sammy was out lbw to Harris for three and Denesh Ramdin was caught by Gibbs off Steyn without scoring.

After his nightmare in the first innings, Steyn bounced back with 3-53 off 14 overs.

South Africa have a huge task ahead of them — the highest fourth-wicket score at St George’s Park was 273, made by South Africa in a losing cause against New Zealand in 1960/61.

The Proteas will have to apply the kind of patience shown by Chanderpaul, and avoid the silly soft dismissals they were guilty of in their first innings, if they are to have any hope of winning, or even drawing, the match. But Graeme Smith will be a happier man on Friday night than he would have been at tea-time. — Sapa