AB de Villiers, addressing a testing Newlands pitch in typically forthright style, fashioned South Africa’s response on the third morning of the third Test.
By lunch, South Africa had trimmed the deficit to 16 runs with five wickets intact and they owed much to de Villiers, who guided them through a challenging morning.
West Indies, with Jason Holder to the fore, fought hard to stay in the Test, aware that South Africa would find batting difficult in the fourth innings if, as expected, the bounce became increasingly treacherous.
They removed Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma, but de Villiers, mixing stout defence with occasional attacking forays, managed to keep South Africa’s heads above water by lunch.
Fortunately for West Indies, the tone set at the start of the day by Marlon Samuels – three desultory full tosses to complete an over left over from the night before – only proved temporary.
With South Africa still 102 behind, and a new ball just over 10 overs away, it was a period in which a lack of concentration could hand over the initiative.
A ball change five overs into the day provided immediate succour for West Indies.
Holder immediately dismissed Amla, finding just enough away movement from a tight line to find the edge. Batting had been comfortable and immediately there had been a shift of character.
At the non-striker’s end, de Villiers shook his head, not just at the wicket but at a recognition that the game had changed.
Amla became the eighth player in the match to fall between 42 and 68, but he was in a minority in that he could point to a decent ball rather than a lapse in concentration.
It was a tough entrance for Bavuma, the diminutive kid from Langa, a Cape Town township, playing in only his second Test, the first black African batsman to play Tests for South Africa.
A push through mid-on to get off the mark receive marked applause.
Holder, recognising the opportunity the ball change had given him, tightened his line efficiently and bowled the best spell of the match, finally resembling a third seamer of worth. (cricinfo)