Lara's brave show of defiance slows South Africa advance

South Africa 532 & 38-0 West Indies 427
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The Independent Online

Atlas was what they called George Headley, the first in the long line of great West Indian batsmen, who had to take the weight of the batting on his shoulders through his country's early years in Test cricket.

It is a name that has become equally applicable to Brian Lara, his latest successor at a time of sharp decline, who once more had to carry the load yesterday to prevent South Africa from taking complete hold on the third day of the Third Test here at Newlands.

The dismissal of the previous day's whirlwind century-maker, Chris Gayle, after adding four to his overnight 112 brought the left-handed West Indies captain to the middle in the fourth over of the morning.

As wickets fell at regular intervals around him, Lara curbed his natural instincts for an appropriately measured approach. He defied the South Africans for five and a half hours and 238 balls before he was last out for 115, the fifth victim for the fast bowler Andre Nel. It formed the foundation of the West Indies' total of 427 that limited the deficit on South Africa's formidable first-innings score of 538 to 106.

The openers, Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, then comfortably built the lead up to 143 by the close, a strong position to press for their third successive victory in the series with two days remaining.

On the way to his 24th Test hundred - and his sixth in the 11 Tests since his reinstatement as captain last March - Lara passed 9,000 runs in 177 innings, two fewer than Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian maestro, who had been the fastest to the landmark when he reached it against Australia on Friday. Although delighted with his feat, Lara was more concerned about the impact he could make over the last two days of this Test.

"There are now five guys over 9,000 runs and I suppose to get there with the least amount of innings and the least amount of Test matches is an achievement in itself," he said. "But, in the context of the game, I have to look beyond that and think of stretching it way past 9,000."

Lara's approach was dictated by the immediate loss of Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, who had stunned the South Africans with their attack on the previous afternoon to allow the West Indies to resume at 178 for 1 yesterday.

Gayle was out lbw to Shaun Pollock offering no shot, an inappropriate end for the tall left-hander who thrashed a six and 19 fours in raising his hundred off 79 balls on the second afternoon. Sarwan followed four runs later to a loose cut off Nel, setbacks that brought such a cautious response from Lara that he took 20 deliveries to score his first run.

Once settled, Lara occasionally allowed himself his favourite strokes, through the off-side and off his legs, but he never tried anything extravagant until, with the last man, Fidel Edwards, his partner, he missed a wild swing at Nel.

Lara spent almost an hour in the 90s until his most spectacular stroke, a hook off Jacques Kallis, sailed over square-leg for his only six to raise his hundred. Most of his partners got started but none stayed long enough to set up a substantial partnership against persistent bowling in scorching heat.

Apart from Lara's, the highest score on the day was that of the left-handed No 9 Dave Mohammed's timely, if frenetic, run-a-ball 36, which included a six and seven fours.

The 26-year-old Nel, who credits his improvement in pace and control to his time with Northamptonshire last season, finished with five for 87, his first such return in his seven Tests.

(Third day of five; South Africa won toss)

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings (Friday night: 308-6)
M V Boucher not out 122
S M Pollock c Jacobs b Edwards 9
J H Kallis lbw b Sanford 73
M Ntini c Jacobs b Mohammed 18
A Nel c Jacobs b Sanford 4
Extras (b6 lb12 w2 nb18) 38
Total (145 overs) 532

Fall: 1-70 2-90 3-162 4-304 5-305 6-305 7-315 8-461 9-513.

Bowling: Drakes 26-7-64-0; Edwards 30-3-132-3; Sanford 37-4-132-4; D R Smith 2-0-4-0; Mohammed 33-5-112-3; Gayle 10-0-39-0; Hinds 7-2-31-0.

WEST INDIES - First Innings
C H Gayle lbw b Pollock 116
D Ganga bowled Nel 17
R R Sarwan c McKenzie b Nel 44
B C Lara b Nel 115
W W Hinds c Boucher b Kallis 13
D R Smith c Kallis b Nel 20
R D Jacobs c Pollock b Ntini 23
V C Drakes c Boucher b Nel 20
D Mohammed c Kallis b Pollock 36
A Sanford run out (Kallis) 0
F H Edwards not out 0
Extras (b6 lb7 nb10) 23
Total (112.1 overs) 427

Fall: 1-126 2-183 3-187 4-224 5-252 6-306 7-361 8-406 9-426.

Bowling: Pollock 24-6-88-2; Ntini 20-1-105-1; Nel 28.1-8-87-5; Kallis 21-7-63-1; Adams 19-1-70-0.

SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings
G C Smith not out 18
H H Gibbs not out 19
Extras: (1nb) 1
Total: (for 0, 10 overs) 38

To bat: J A Rudolph, J H Kallis, G Kirsten, N D McKenzie, ÝM V Boucher, S M Pollock, P R Adams, M Ntini, A Nel

Bowling: Edwards 3-0-18-0; Sanford 2-0-13-0; Gayle 3-2-1-0; Drakes 2-0-6-0

Umpires: S Venkataraghavan (Ind) and D J Harper (Aus).