Cricket: West Indies clinging on

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The Independent Online
South Africa 406-8 dec & 91-3 West Indies 212

AIDED BY unusual South African generosity in the field, the West Indies scrambled their way out of the follow-on on the third day of the fourth Test yesterday, but still face two more days of tough grind if they are to avoid their fourth successive defeat.

Jonty Rhodes dropped Carl Hooper at cover point in the day's first over, Paul Adams let Ridley Jacobs' skier through his grasp at deep mid-on, the wicketkeeper Mark Boucher watched Ottis Gibson's edge fly past his right hand and a substitute, Ashwell Prince, put down Nixon McLean's deep- field dolly, all before the West Indies had reached their goal of 207.

Through their chances, the West Indies, 89 for 4 at the start, were finally bowled out at tea for 212. Hooper, 55 when put down, reached 86, the highest West Indies score of the series.

Without the faulty catching, Hansie Cronje would have had the option, and psychological advantage, of sending his dispirited opponents back in. However, his main strike weapon, Allan Donald, was on the treatment table in the team room with a strained left hamstring and the captain might have been relieved not to have to make the decision.

A lead of 196 was imposing enough and, even with the early loss of three wickets for no runs in the space of 10 balls, it was a lead extended to 287 with seven wickets intact by the end of the day. There is still ample time for South Africa's bowlers to work their way through the fragile West Indies batting, even on a pitch that is in ideal condition.

South Africa's aerial errors contrasted sharply with their dazzling work on the ground, where the speed, athleticism and accuracy of Hershcelle Gibbs, Rhodes and especially Cronje saved countless runs.

Hardly an hour has gone by without a defining moment typifying the gap between the teams and Cronje's spectacular run out of Hooper was another. Casually turning for a third run while Cronje chased his drive to within a foot of the boundary, the overweight Hooper sensed too late the danger of a fast, flat, accurate return to the bowler's end and was shown, by the TV replays, to be a couple of inches short of his ground.

Another 61 were needed to avoid the follow-on with four wickets remaining when he left and only the missed chances allowed the West Indies to get there. When South Africa batted a second time, their progress was slowed by the loss of Gibbs, Gary Kirsten and Daryl Cullinan, before reaching the close at 91 for 3.