The margin of 178 runs and a premature completion 35 minutes after tea on the third day were as much indicative of the West Indian carefree approach to a crucial match as to the outstanding South African performance that earned them a 2-0 lead in the five-Test series.
Given an unrealistic 320 to win after South Africa were dismissed for 195 in their second innings half an hour before lunch, the West Indies were thrown into an immediate state of confusion as Stuart Williams, laid low by a bout of flu, could not take his appointed place as opener. Shivnarine Chanderpaul went in first instead, while the captain Brian Lara chose to shelter himself at No 5 following a sequence of low scores and the wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs, playing only his second Test, was sent in at No 3, where he had never appeared.
It made little difference. Routed in the first innings for 121 in 37.3 overs, the tourists managed a second-innings total only 20 runs greater and survived five balls more on a pitch not nearly as difficult. There were, yet again, several wanton strokes and two ridiculous run-outs, created by muddled thinking and South Africa's clinical efficiency in the field. "If you're giving 100 per cent and you get beaten by the better team you can hold your head up high," a dejected Lara said after emerging from a lengthy dressing-room inquest. "But we're not giving 100 per cent, and they're not taking five days to beat us - they're taking two"
The biggest crowd of the match of just under 10,000 revelled in their team's dominance and, as the resident brass band greeted every wicket with a different refrain, even the electronic scoreboard unconsciously mocked the West Indies. As the collapse continued, it flashed one advertisement: "This match is like a Corsa. No contest."
The prelude to the capitulation was, ironically, encouraging for the West Indies. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, the only two survivors of the great eras of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, removed the last half of the South African second-innings batting for the addition of just 52 in the morning.
Ambrose, disregarding a slight groin strain and a sore elbow, accounted for four of the five wickets to finish with 6 for 51, the 20th time in his great career he had removed at least half the opposition. In the process, he also lit a fire in the rival fast bowler Allan Donald, poleaxing the South African with a bouncer that cracked him on the side of the helmet.
A clearly riled Donald returned in the mood to repay the indignity, immediately delivering an explosive blast of his own that the opener Clayton Lambert wafted to Mark Boucher, setting off another disintegration. Donald came back later to take four of the last five wickets, including that of Lara who had produced an electrifying volley of strokes. The West Indies captain had lashed seven fours and pulled a meaty six off a bouncer before, next ball, he lobbed a catch to mid-on. His 39 off 49 balls was simply the flailing of a dying innings for, by then, the cause was well beyond redemption.
Lara was left to search for consolation. "Clive Lloyd went through a 5-1 series defeat to Australia and came back to produce one of the best teams in the world. We've got to look inward for the solutions. You can't tell me that the Brian Lara we saw today is the Brian Lara of four years ago, or Carl Hooper, or Shivnarine Chanderpaul. We've got Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, who are performing maybe even better than four years ago, and we're still getting beaten in two-and-a-half days."Reuse content