Batting with typical West Indian flair and what their captain, Brian Lara, termed "the innocence of youth", Dwayne Smith, an unknown 20-year-old, restored battered West Indies pride with a breathtaking, unbeaten run-a-ball 105 on his Test debut to ensure a draw in the third Test here yesterday.
Smith disregarded the difficulty of the situation that faced the West Indies when he entered 20 minutes after tea at 224 for 4 with a winning target of 441 beyond reach and 66.3 overs remaining.
When the South Africa captain, Graeme Smith, conceded that there was no point continuing with five of the 105 overs still available, Smith had made his runs out of the 130 scored while he was in, and the West Indies had reached 354 for 5.
With only one first-class hundred behind him, Smith was a surprise replacement for Marlon Samuels, one of the several injured players who had to return home.
The chief selector, Sir Viv Richards, made the choice after recognising a kindred spirit while watching Smith's maiden hundred for Barbados as an 18-year-old two seasons ago and, last October, an unbeaten 92 with nine sixes against Guyana in a one-day match.
The dismissals of Lara, for 86, and the vice-captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan, for 69, within 21 runs of each other after a three-hour partnership of 156 raised South African expectations of completing their third successive victory in the series. But the slim, right-handed Smith treated the bowling and the situation as if it was a Saturday afternoon match in the Bolton League, where he played last season. Peppering the boundaries with clean, wristy strokes, he sped to his 100 from 93 balls.
The first of his two sixes was a remarkable drive over extra cover off the fast bowler Makhaya Ntini with the second new ball. His 15 fours came mainly from drives and pulls through the leg side.
Until he came in, West Indian hopes of avoiding their third defeat in the series rested with Lara and Sarwan. They had held the innings together after the openers, Daren Ganga and Chris Gayle - who had contributed a century in the first innings - had fallen to Ntini for 10 and 32 respectively.
Lara followed his first-innings 115 with 86 before he under-edged a pull off Andre Nel, South Africa's most persistent bowler, to the wicketkeeper, Mark Boucher. Lara said that he still believed an unlikely win was possible while he and Sarwan were together, but Sarwan's exit to a gully catch off Ntini's bouncer tilted the balance back to South Africa.
Smith changed the climate of the game with his instant assault. He was especially severe on the left-arm wrist- spinner Paul Adams, but no bowler was spared. He scored 61 out of a stand of 72 with the left-hander Wavell Hinds, who fell to Shaun Pollock with the second new ball with 22 overs still available. But the wicketkeeper, Ridley Jacobs, remained to the end to see Smith to his remarkable hundred and his team to a draw.
"What I've seen from young Smith so far is tremendous," Lara said. "His work ethic is great and that is what you need. You need to prepare yourself properly for Test cricket."
Fifth day of five; South Africa won toss
SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings 532 (M V Boucher 122no, J A Rudolph 101, N D McKenzie 76, J H Kallis 72; A Sanford 4-32)
WEST INDIES - First Innings 427 (C H Gayle 116, B C Lara 115; A Nel 5-87)
SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings 335-3 dec (H H Gibbs 142, J H Kallis 130no)
WEST INDIES - Second Innings
C H Gayle c Gibbs b Ntini 32
D Ganga c Boucher b Ntini 10
R R Sarwan c Gibbs b Ntini 69
B C Lara c Boucher b Nel 86
W W Hinds b Pollock 25
D R Smith not out 105
R D Jacobs not out 9
Extras (b2 lb7 w2 nb7) 18
Total (5 wkts, 100 overs) 354
Fall: 1-28 2-47 3-203 4-224 5-296.
Did Not Bat: V C Drakes, D Mohammed, A Sanford, F H Edwards.
Bowling: Pollock 17-3-64-1; Ntini 21-4-82-3; Nel 21-5-57-1; Kallis 16-3-38-0; Adams 22-3-103-0; Rudolph 1-1-0-0; Kirsten 2-1-1-0.
Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and S Venkataraghavan (India).Reuse content