Windies beaten in first Test
TOO FAST and too far had West Indies sunk on the third afternoon for them to have realistic hopes of recovery in this first Digicel Test cricket match.
Chasing 457 for victory, they got up to 293 before Man Of The Match Dale Steyn bowled Nelon Pascal with two overs and three balls to go in the day. South Africa won the first Test by 163 runs. They were comfortable winners. But throughout their second innings there was a spirit of defiance to the West Indies play that only declined with the sun setting over the Queen’s Park Oval at nine minutes to six.
By that time, five extra overs had been required in addition to the 78 the West Indies had to face after South Africa had declared their first innings 70 minutes into the first session.
It said something about the Windies’ effort yesterday that extra time was needed at all.
Backed up against the wall as they were, it was going to take exceptional cricket – the kind which this side cannot muster currently – and slices of good fortune for them to even get close to the victory target.
Still, from a position of seemingly imminent decline at 152 for five when Narsingh Deonarine’s partnership of 38 with Dwayne Bravo ended, the lower half of the West Indies order produced a further 141 runs.
With forthright strokes marking their bold defiance, Sulieman Benn (42, eight fours), Shane Shillingford (27, four fours, one six), Ravi Rampaul (18 not out, two fours) and Nelon Pascal (10), gave the diehards scattered around the ground a temporary lift.
But those fans would have gone away frustrated by their unfathomable team. In yet another match, West Indies mixed mediocrity and meritorious play.
The mediocrity which produced a first innings score of 102, made defeat certain. But Chris Gayle and his men responded to their hopeless plight with far more gumption and focus than on Saturday.
The first signs though were not encouraging when they began their pursuit of the 457.
First ball of the second over, Morne Morkel won an lbw decision against Travis Dowlin (one). And before lunch arrived, the Brendan Nash experiment at No.3 had failed again.
Unlike his dubious umpire review decision in the first innings, the left-hander had only himself to blame this time for playing at a Steyn delivery wide of his off-stump that was better left alone.
Gayle got 73 before he was lbw to Morkel in the second session with the first ball of a new spell. But he did not budge for two-and-half hours, in which time he occupied the crease with Shivnarine Chanderpaul (15). Chanderpaul had earlier fallen to a second slip catch by AB de Villiers as he shuffled across his stumps playing at Jacques Kallis.
The West Indies are not a team of in-form batsmen. So Deonarine (23) who was lbw to Steyn and Bravo (49) out to a poor stroke to midwicket off left-arm spinner Paul Harris were unable to carry on long enough to ensure the match progressed into the scheduled final day.
It was left to the bowlers to carry on the fight. Benn the irrepressible, set the tone.
Earlier he had picked up the wickets of Kallis and Smith, who made 90 before the latter declared the South African innings at 206 for four. Now Benn gave Kallis more blow – pulling him for three fours in succession – as he and Shillingford chased the irked all-rounder from the attack. Shillingford himself banged Kallis mightily over long-off as one of the game’s finest-ever all-rounders conceded 34 runs in four overs.
That eighth-wicket stand of 66 was the highest of the innings.
It took the involuntary introduction of part-time slow bowler Alviro Petersen to break the resistance. Failing light discouraged Smith from bringing back his faster men. But Petersen trapped Benn lbw and at the other end debutant Shillingford subsequently gave his hand away to Harris.
Steyn, with his match-winning eight wickets and first innings knock of 39, was the game’s top man.
But the considerable efforts of Benn (eight wickets, plus that cameo) and Shillingford (four wickets and his 27) gave Gayle a crumb of comfort.
But as the series heads to St Kitts for the second Test on Friday, the skipper knows he has some problems to solve at the top of the order and at No.3.