FOR just over three captivating hours on the third day of the third Test yesterday, South Africa encountered the first genuine West Indian batting resistance of the series as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara stroked 23 boundaries between them in a glittering partnership of 160.
By tea, the left-handed pair had erased a first-innings deficit of 114 and earned the West Indies a promising lead of 179 with eight wickets intact. They seemed back in business after their crushing defeats in the first two Tests.
Even in the face of the attack, the tenacious South Africans never lost their focus. They regrouped during the interval and, inspired by two breathtaking catches by the flying Herschelle Gibbs, it took them 40 minutes to shatter the illusion in an extraordinary period on resumption.
The West Indies' hope of 201 for 2, with the two left-handers entrenched, was transformed into the despair of 214 for 7 in the space of eight overs. When the umpires, Dave Orchard and Russell Tiffin, deemed even the artificial light from the ground's pylons - switched on for the third successive day - too poor to continue, it had only marginally improved to 246 for 8.
South Africa, a mere 132 in arrears, need only to get rid of the two last wickets in the morning to set out after a straightforward target that would secure them an impregnable 3-0 advantage in the series and initiate untold repercussions in the Caribbean.
Lara was the first of Gibbs' victims for 79, the highlights of which were 15 thrilling boundaries, mainly through point and cover. His fierce pull shot off the nagging medium-pacer David Terbrugge 10 minutes after tea, his first of the innings, was horizontally intercepted at square leg to the gasps, and then cheers, of a crowd of 12,000.
Chanderpaul followed five balls later for 75, driving a return catch to Shaun Pollock on the same score, and a collapse that was staggering even by recent West Indian standards ensued. It was helped along by a controversial catch by the wicketkeeper, Mark Boucher, off Carl Hooper's inside edge and Gibbs' second spectacular effort at square leg to gather in Darren Ganga's miscued hook.
Hooper walked off once the tumbling Boucher came up with the ball without waiting for the standing umpire, Dave Orchard, to consult the magnificent TV replay that showed the ball brushing the ground.
Whatever sourness that may have engendered was counterbalanced when the captain, Hansie Cronje, withdrew an appeal after Franklyn Rose collided with bowler Jacques Kallis on follow-through and was run out by three- quarters of the length of the pitch, a gesture that he did not make the most of as he skied a catch to mid-on five balls before the close.
Fast bowler Rose had finished off South Africa's first innings in the morning with his seventh wicket for a best Test return of 7 for 84.
Third day; South Africa won toss
WEST INDIES - First Innings 198 (B C Lara 51; J H Kallis 3-18, W J Cronje 3-19).
SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings
(Overnight: 292 for 8)
J N Rhodes c and b Walsh 87
A A Donald b Rose 13
D J Terbrugge not out 2
Extras (b4, lb8, w1, nb13) 26
Total (all out, 98 overs) 312
Fall (cont): 9-295.
Bowling: Ambrose 17-1-60-0 (10nb), Walsh 29-6-68-2 (2nb), Rose 28-6-84- 7 (1w, 1nb), Lewis 20-2-70-0, Hooper 4-0-18-0.
WEST INDIES - Second Innings
P A Wallace c Boucher b Donald 1
J R Murray c Gibbs b Kallis 29
S Chanderpaul c and b Pollock 75
*B C Lara c Gibbs b Terbrugge 79
C L Hooper c Boucher b Pollock 2
D Ganga c Gibbs b Pollock 5
R Jacobs not out 12
R D Lewis c Boucher b Donald 0
F A Rose c Gibbs b Pollock 22
C E L Ambrose not out 0
Extras (lb12, w2, nb7) 21
Total (for 8, 77.5 overs) 246
Fall: 1-17 2-41 3-201 4-201 5-204 6-213 7-214 8-245.
To bat: C A Walsh.
Bowling: Donald 18-4-58-2, Pollock 24.5-6-74-4 (7nb), Terbrugge 13-4- 28-1, Kallis 10-1-31-1, Symcox 12-3-43-0 (2w).
Umpires: D L Orchard (SA) and R B Tiffin (Zim).Reuse content