GROS ISLET, St Lucia – West Indies were staring at their first defeat of the year after Quinton de Kock’s career-best hundred and a brace of wickets from seamers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, left them against the ropes on day two of the second Test on Friday.
For the second straight day, the home side were forced to play second fiddle, as South Africa piled up 322 in their first innings to take a damaging 225-run lead in the contest.
The left-handed de Kock played superbly after resuming the morning on four, carving out an unbeaten 141 – his sixth Test hundred which surpassed his previous best of 129 against England two years ago.
Rassie van der Dussen made 46 after resuming on 34 while Wiaan Mulder chipped in with 25, before South Africa finally folded five minutes after the scheduled tea break at the Daren Sammy National Stadium.
Former captain Jason Holder was the best bowler with four for 75 while fellow fast bowler, debutant 19-year-old Jayden Seales (3-75), and veteran new ball bowler Kemar Roach (2-64) provided support.
West Indies were quickly in turmoil in their second turn at the crease, crashing to 51 for four before stopping the bleeding temporarily to reach the close on 82 for four.
Roston Chase, recalled for the series, was propping up the innings on an unbeaten 21, in a 31-run fifth wicket stand with vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood who was on ten not out.
The damage was done first by Rabada who claimed both openers Kieran Powell (14) and Kraigg Brathwaite (7) cheaply, and continued by Nortje who knocked over Shai Hope and Kyle Mayers both for 12.
Heading into day three, West Indies find themselves in a precarious position of requiring a further 143 runs with only six wickets intact, in order to avoid an innings defeat.
Resuming from their overnight 128 for four, South Africa flourished mainly through de Kock’s enterprise, the 28-year-old crashing a dozen fours and seven sixes in an innings spanning 170 balls and a shade over 4-¼ hours.
More critically, he extended his fifth wicket stand with van der Dussen to 43, put on a further 53 for the sixth wicket with Mulder before deflating West Indies by anchoring a 79-run, ninth wicket partnership with Nortje (7).
Holder got the breakthrough on the stroke of the first hour’s play when he had van der Dussen caught by Hope diving forward at gully, after the right-hander struck five fours off 148 balls.
However, the success was to be West Indies’ only one of the session as the visitors added 77 to be 205 for five at lunch.
Given out lbw on 23 when he missed a sweep at off-spinner Chase, de Kock successfully appealed the decision to be 44 not out at the interval, before reaching his fifty in the fourth over following the resumption.
But West Indies enjoyed their best period immediately after lunch too, removing Mulder after he had added just four, and then Keshav Maharaj (0) and Rabada (4), as three wickets tumbled for 18 runs.
Tottering on 233 for eight, South Africa rebounded through de Kock’s daring counter-attack, to push their lead past the 200-run mark.
de Kock raised his hundred about 35 minutes before tea when he smashed medium pacer Mayers behind square for six and then opened his shoulders to score freely against the tiring Windies attack.
On 118, he top-edged a catch to fine leg off a pull at Holder but replays showed the former captain had over-stepped, and the batsman survived to be there at the end.
Needing a vastly improved showing in their second innings, West Indies lost captain Brathwaite in the fifth over when Rabada gained an lbw decision via DRS after pinning the right-hander on his stumps.
Powell, a concussion replacement for Nkrumah Bonner, was also hit in front by Rabada to leave West Indies on 25 for two, and Hope completed a miserable return to Test cricket when he edged Nortje to third slip off the first ball after the drinks break.
Left-hander Mayers summed up the Windies’ bleak day with a carbon copy of Hope’s dismissal, steering Nortje to third slip. (CMC)