Gibbs puts South Africa on front foot

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Herschelle Gibbs' 142, an innings ruthless in execution and sublime in stroke-play, and his third-wicket partnership of 168 with Jacques Kallis, established South Africa's complete control of the Second Test at Kingsmead yesterday.

When the second day was halted under gloomy skies 16 overs ahead of schedule, even with the floodlights shining, they were 303 for 3, 39 ahead of the West Indies with Kallis unbeaten on 74 and proven batting down to Andrew Hall at No 9 to come. It is a firm foundation on which to build their second victory of the four-match series, following their triumph by 189 runs in the First Test.

Gibbs, the 29-year-old opener in his 54th Test, unerringly punished the offerings of long-hops and half-volleys served up by the West Indies' all-seam bowling on a flat, flawless pitch in sunny, cloudless weather that only changed after tea. His favoured shots were pulls and sweetly timed drives that whistled through the off-side, of both front foot and back. They brought him most of his 23 fours from the 175 balls he received in four-and-a-quarter hours chanceless batting.

Hardly a ball passed his bat as he compiled his 11th Test hundred, his first in 11 Tests against the West Indies. The closest the West Indies came to removing him, before he dragged a pull off Adam Sanford back into his off-stump 65 minutes after tea, was at 68 when he got the better of a close lbw decision off Fidel Edwards, the fastest of the bowlers.

Kallis, who joined him after captain Graeme Smith had sliced a drive off Edwards to backward point and Jacques Rudolph lobbed a catch at gully off Sanford, was prepared to tag along in his slipstream, letting his rampant partner indulge himself. Yet he seldom missed a chance to punish the several loose balls himself, gathering eight fours and helping Gibbs in a stand that raced along at five runs an over. He was lucky at 48 when umpire Simon Taufel missed an edge to the wicketkeeper off Vasbert Drakes, that was detected on televisions replays, but had become the second South African to pass 5,000 Test runs when he and partner Gary Kirsten, the first to the landmark, accepted the offer to end play because of the uneven light.

It seemed an unusual decision, given that the West Indies had batted throughout the 65 overs of the first day in similarly murky light under the floodlights that were now deemed to be inadequate.

Gibbs and Kallis once more exposed the ineffectiveness of the West Indies bowling in good conditions. Twice in their previous three Tests on their southern African tour, they have conceded first-innings total in excess of 500, in the First in Zimbabwe last month and in the First in Johannesburg. They would do well to avoid another here.

The changed nature of the pitch that had lost its early life by mid-afternoon on the first day was evident in the West Indies' ninth-wicket stand between Drakes and Sanford. It was worth 41 at the start and was extended to 70 in the first three-quarters of an hour before Drakes, 40 overnight, was out for 67, his highest Test score. Fast bowler Makhaya Ntini claimed the last wicket for final figures of 5 for 66, his second such return in the series.

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