West Indies, South Africa still deadlocked after day two
Seven days of tough, uncompromising Test cricket have failed to separate the West Indies and South Africa who still remain deadlocked after the home finished the second day of the second Test on 250-7 in reply to the tourists' first innings score of 286.
A deficit of 36 may not seem significant at this stage but both teams are fighting for any kind of lead as though their lives depend on it with the best of the batting conditions now gone.
Resuming on 2-0 after a single over on the first day, opener Chris Gayle (10) was the sole victim of a morning session in which South Africa's seam attack toiled hard against some highly efficient, determined batting from the home side's top order.
Shuffling across his stumps to a Shaun Pollock inswinger, the left hander was palpably trapped LBW in front of middle stump with the total on 24 but Wavell Hinds and Marlon Samuels displaayed huge confidence against the seamers, both unafraid to hook and pull with Makhaya Ntini suffering most.
With lunch taken at 89-1 the platform was being laid for a highly competitive total but the South Africans, inspired by Allan Donald and a huge slice of luck, struck back quickly with three wickets after the break including the prized scalp of Brian Lara.
Samuels (35) was the first to go, outthought by Allan Donald who persuaded the classy 20-year-old to waft at a rising delivery outside off stump resulting in a catch to Lance Klusener at third slip.
Hinds, however, had good reason to look as horrified as he did when given out, also caught Mark Boucher bowled Donald, after pushing forward to a ball that held its line while slanting across him. Television replays showed atleast a couple of inches of daylight between bat and ball although there was clearly a noise of some sort as the bowler and fielders appealed spontaneously.
Lara was clearly desperate to entertain his adoring, home crowd and showed just a moment or two of genius in carefully reaching 12 from 39 balls before driving at Ntini and edging to Jacques Kallis at second slip. It was difficult to imagine a crowd of close to 20 000 so quiet as he left the field.
They were soon cheering again, however, as Ramnaresh Sarwan (34) and Hooper (53) added 75 for the fifth wicket to repair the damage and raise hopes of the first innings lead that most observers believe will be crucial to the outcome of the match on a wicket expected to deteriorate quickly beyond the third day.
Sarwan, the second 20-year-old in the West Indies XI, played some exhilarating shots in his 34 but the off drive against Donald that led to his downfall was a little ambitious and Daryll Cullinan made no mistake at slip.
Hooper finally fell to the second new ball, LBW to Donald for 53 from 126 balls with five fours, but Ridley Jacobs (26*) and the more than capable Dinanath Ramnarine (2*) remained to the close and may yet guide their team into the lead.