Ntini's haul leaves jaded West Indies on brink of defeat

South Africa 604-6 dec West Indies 301 & 44-2
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The Independent Online

South Africa closed in on another emphatic victory with typically ruthless efficiency on the third day of the fourth and final Test here yesterday.

Their uncompromising first innings of 604 for 6 declared over the first two days, after they were sent in by Brian Lara, clearly knocked out much of whatever fight the West Indies retained after defeats in the first two Tests and a hard-fought draw in the third.

Their well equipped fast-bowling staff, with Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel once more to the fore, capitalised on their opponents' insecurity and the most helpful pitch of the series, steadily reducing the West Indies to a first-innings 301.

Ntini's 5 for 49 was his third five-wicket haul in the series and, after Graeme Smith enforced the inevitable follow-on, he and Nel claimed another wicket each as the West Indies limped to 44 for 2 when play was ended by fading lighteight overs prematurely.

It left them the daunting prospect of scoring another 259 to avoid their second innings defeat in the series.

Among the late wickets was the captain Lara, who endured the rarity of two dismissals in the same day, both to Nel who returned with no obvious after-effects from his overnight wedding. After a scratchy 34 in the first innings, he was caught behind by the wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, the world's top-rated batsman was lbw for six second time round, padding away a ball delivered from round the wicket.

It was the response of a disheartened captain at the end of a series he had hoped would atone for the 5-0 whitewash the West Indies suffered in the previous series here five years ago in his first tenure at the helm.

South Africa's success, based on a persistent off-stump line, contrasted starkly with the aimless West Indian bowling of the first two days which lacked control, sprayed 15 wides and was hammered for eight sixes and 70 fours.

The West Indies opener Chris Gayle rode his early luck, repeatedly playing and missing outside off-stump, to hit several spectacular shots in his 77 including a six and 14 fours. A blow to the groin from Ntini forced him to retire hurt in the second innings.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul contributed 42 and Dwayne Smith a frenetic 39 but it took aggressive batting by the fast bowlers Vasbert Drakes (35), and Merv Dillon (30) to push the total past the 300-mark.

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