CAPE TOWN – Another innings; one more familiar collapse.
Abject batting by the West Indies saw them bundled out for 215 today, leaving South Africa 124 runs to win the third Test at Newlands and take the three-Test series 2-0. By the end of the day that target had been reduced to 115 after the struggling Alviro Petersen was bowled by Sulieman Benn in the final over of the day as South Africa reached 9 for 1.
West Indies’ last seven wickets tumbled for only 33 runs in 15 overs as not for the first time in the series they were blown aside. The ball before Marlon Samuels self-destructed to cries of condemnation from all quarters, West Indies seemed to be making a fist of it. Samuels and Shivnarine Chanderpaul put up prolonged resistance in a fourth-wicket stand of 87 in 28 overs, which was enough to take them into a lead of 90, but once Samuels perished attempting to strike Simon Harmer straight for six, it all became very messy.
It would be easy to condemn Samuels for the manner of his departure as he holed out to straight long-on, with Dean Elgar, one of several boundary outriders, making good ground to take the catch. “Arrogant”, “brainless” and “inexcusable” were just three words on commentators’ lips. In his defence, it was exactly the sort of shot that had first indicated West Indian defiance. If he had broken Harmer, the sole spinner, he might have exposed South Africa in a single session that had the potential to extend for up to four hours.
Harmer, though, is not easily broken. He has had an excellent debut Test, taking seven wickets in the match and going at three runs per over. He has shown enough attacking potential, too, to suggest that he might prove himself a more adaptable spin bowler than some who have answered the Proteas’ needs.
Dale Steyn was deadly once the ball started to reverse, his pace unnerving, his accuracy immaculate and his eyes so dead they might have won the part of the oldest character in the Twilight fantasy series. He bowled Jermaine Blackwood with a wicked outswinger to follow a couple of inswingers and was on a hat-trick after picking up Denesh Ramdin first ball, Ramdin finding Harmer in front of square leg as he played too early.
Morne Morkel’s hostility deserved a greater reward than two top-order wickets. Vernon Philander had a wicketless Newlands Test. Initially so destructive here, with 30 wickets in his first four Tests, he has managed only one in his last two appearances.
The rain was teeming down in Cape Town at the scheduled start of play. When things got underway at 3p.m., there was quite a shock in store, especially for the South African bowlers: a single session of 53 overs or three-and-a-half hours – with, of course, the potential for an extra half hour if they did not bowl their overs fast enough. Statisticians mulled over whether this must be the longest session in Test history. There was not the merest hint that South Africa’s bowlers felt the need to pace themselves. The longest session depended entirely on West Indies’ ability to survive it.
At 88 for 2 at start of play, they were only four runs behind and had played gamely in this Test, but few imagined they might carry it through to something substantial. That suspicion deepened with the departure of Leon Johnson in the third over of the day. Two aerial drives against Steyn, the first whizzing over Hashim Amla at first slip, took West Indies into the lead, but Morkel unpinned him with a rising delivery around off stump.
Samuels and Chanderpaul are the oddest couple at the crease. One dances; one sits back and observes. One is forever vulnerable to conceit; one measures risk by a single grain. Samuels was eager to dismiss Harmer from his presence; Chanderpaul watched every ball intently, as if slow turn was really fast turn, leaping from the cracks, his caution encouraged when Harmer found a thin edge and AB de Villiers dropped an inviting chance.
Still at three down, it was possible to imagine that Chanderpaul’s reprieve might be costly. But the rush of wickets following Samuels’ dismissal soon revealed a familiar truth. Harmer’s agony was shelved as Holder clipped him carelessly to short midwicket and, two balls later, Jerome Taylor’s ungodly wind-up plopped into the hands of deep midwicket.
When Steyn picked off Benn, all that was left was for West Indies to complete their innings in a manner that summed up the disarray of the previous hour. This they duly achieved as Chanderpaul and Shannon Gabriel were lost in confusion in midwicket, leaving Bavuma’s direct hit from backward point to end proceedings.
West Indies did at least take a wicket in the three overs remaining. Ramdin started with Taylor and Samuels and the third over was given to Benn whose third delivery, a quicker arm ball, comprehensively bowled a transfixed Petersen for 0; his Test career as troubled at the end of the series as it had been at the start.