Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs made Brian Lara pay heavily for his decision to bowl on winning the toss for the first time in the series, as they comfortably accumulated an opening partnership of 301 on the first day of the fourth and final Test here yesterday.
It was the third triple-century stand during the past year by Smith and Gibbs, who are challenging Australia's left-handed combination of Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer as Test cricket's most voracious opening pairing.
Smith, the left-handed captain, who counted two sixes and 21 fours in his sixth Test hundred, gathered 89 of his 139 runs on the leg-side before he finally edged a ball off the paceman Corey Collymore to the wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.
Two balls, and one run, later, his replacement at the crease, Jacques Rudolph persuaded Gibbs to accept the umpires' offer to suspend play at 302 for 1 off 67.1 overs, although the floodlights illuminated the overcast gloom for nearly an hour.
It was a relief for the beleaguered West Indies, who are 2-0 down in the series after conceding totals of 561, 658 for 9 declared, 532 and 335 for 3 declared in the previous Tests.
Gibbs was on 139 at the close, his third hundred in the last three Tests and his 13th overall. Like Smith, he did as he pleased against the purposeless bowling, stroking two sixes and 18 fours on a slow pitch whose deceptive grass covering prompted Lara's decision at the toss.
The Smith-Gibbs partnership has flourished since the 22-year-old captain established himself in the team. They put on 368 against Pakistan in Cape Town last January and 338 against England at Edgbaston in last summer's series.
They came through a few anxious moments after the start was delayed by half an hour by light rain but were in command by lunch, when they had scored 70. Smith survived a close lbw appeal off the pacy but erratic Fidel Edwards when on nine, Gibbs edged two feet short of slip on three and saw a reasonable lbw claim rejected on 12, both off Merv Dillon. With the score on 54, Ramnaresh Sarwan missed a clear chance to run out Smith for 23. However, the pair offered nothing after that.
West Indies won toss
South Africa - First Innings
*G C Smith c Jacobs b Collymore 139
H H Gibbs not out 139
J A Rudolph not out 1
Extras (b1 lb9 nb8 w5) 23
Total (1 wkt, 67.1 overs) 302
To bat: J H Kallis, G Kirsten, N D McKenzie, ÝM V Boucher, S M Pollock, A J Hall, A Nel, M Ntini.
Bowling: Dillon 16-3-66-0; Edwards 11.1-0-69-0; Drakes 18-4-57-0; Collymore 11-0-51-1; Gayle 7-0-39-0; Sarwan 4-0-10-0.
West Indies: C H Gayle, D Ganga, R R Sarwan, *B C Lara, S Chanderpaul, D R Smith, ÝR D Jacobs, C D Collymore, V C Drakes, M Dillon, F H Edwards.
Umpires: D R Shepherd (Eng) and S Venkataraghavan (India).Reuse content