Smith and De Villiers flay raw West Indies attack

South Africa 131-0 - West indies

The Antigua Recreation Ground has been the venue for Brian Lara's two record Test scores, Viv Richards' fastest Test hundred and 45 individual three-figure innings in the 19 Tests it has hosted since 1981.

The Antigua Recreation Ground has been the venue for Brian Lara's two record Test scores, Viv Richards' fastest Test hundred and 45 individual three-figure innings in the 19 Tests it has hosted since 1981.

Standing forlornly at slip as South Africa's openers, the captain, Graeme Smith, and A B de Villiers, rattled up 131 off 25.2 overs before a third rain break halted played 25 minutes after lunch on the first day of the fourth and final Test yesterday, Lara might have thought his unbeaten 400 against England a year ago would come under threat.

When Smith won the toss for the first time in the series, there was no hesitation in his decision to bat. The pitch carried the same inviting look as it did in 1995, when Lara hit the English for 375.

The inexperience and ineffectiveness of a West Indies fast attack with a combined total of 54 wickets in 25 Tests was immediately evident as the left-handed Smith and the right-handed De Villiers comfortably compiled their third successive century stand.

De Villiers, the 21-year-old who scored 176 in the third Test, stroked 10 fours, mostly through the off side, in racing to 68 off 71 balls. Smith was 59, off 83 balls, also with 10 fours. West Indies muffed the only chances they had of separating the two, both potential run-outs of Smith.

Wavell Hinds' underarm throw missed the stumps from three yards when Smith was six. In the third over after an early lunch, Lara's awkward return from point was dropped by the bowler, Narsingh Deonarine, with Smith, 59, well short of his ground.

The West Indies bowling was weakened when Fidel Edwards withdrew after reporting discomfort in his back following net practice. Edwards returned to the team for the third Test after eight months out due to a stress fracture of the back, sustained on the tour of England last August. He went wicketless in defeat but his figures did not do him justice.

His place went to Dwight Washington , a Joel Garner look-alike in stature and approach but not yet in pace or penetration.

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