Second Test building towards gripping climax in Trinidad
A gripping final day in the second Test between West Indies and South Africa seems certain after the home side, chasing 232 for victory and a 1-0 lead, closed on 32-1 after dismissing the tourists for 287 in their second innings.
Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald and Jacques Kallis tried desperately to engineer a breakthrough in the 11 overs the West Indies were required to face at the end of day four and it was Kallis who succeeded by trapping Wavell Hinds (2) lbw in the seventh of those overs.
Chris Gayle played with his usual freedom, despite the pressure of the occasion, cutting and driving Donald for a pair of boundaries in his third over to reach 18 not out while nightwatchman Dinanath Ramnarine survived, somehow, to reach 11.
The day began superbly for the tourists who had fought back from 38-2 on day three to reach 130-2 at the close, a lead of 74. Daryll Cullinan and Herchelle Gibbs again began positively when play began on day four, collecting 42 runs in the first hour as Carl Hooper attacked in search of early wickets.
The third wicket stand had reached 149 before Cullinan aimed a wild slog at Ramnarine's leg spin but succeeded only in carving the bowler to Brian Lara at cover to depart for an otherwise brilliant 73 from 178 balls. But enormous credit must go to Hooper's ingenious field placings and tactics that saw the normally fluent Cullinan score just six boundaries.
Gibbs departed in the fourth over after lunch after five hours and 50 minutes at the crease and, once again, it was cunning and guile that defeated him as Courtney Walsh persuaded him to shove the umpteenth "rib delivery" to square leg where substitute Shivnarine Chanderpaul held a neat catch diving forward. Gibbs faced 275 balls in his 87 and was also limited, by his standards, to 11 fours.
A period of such intense pressure then followed that South Africa scored just 10 runs in the hour after lunch and a mere 45 in the afternoon session as Walsh produced a spell of 6-5-1-1. When he made way for Merv Dillon the wicket followed first ball as Lance Klusener (5) lashed out a Dillon's wide loosener and edged to Gayle at slip.
An out of form Neil McKenzie's excruciating sojourn finally came to a end when Dillon flicked an inside edge to give Ridley Jacobs the catch and send the batsman on his way for 25 scratchy runs from 134 balls.
Mark Boucher produced a typically aggressive counter-attack but on 38 he attempted to pull a Dillon delivery that kept low, nipped back and rattled the top of middle stump.
The final three wickets, usually so productive for South Africa, scrambled just 23 more runs as the irrepressible, ageless Walsh pounded in from the pavilion end for over after over to finish with 6-62 in 36 overs, as inspiring a performance as one could see in Test cricket.
The home side may have been less well placed by the close had Cullinan held a sharp catch at slip off the bowling of Pollock when Gayle was on 17 and Ramnarine carved a Kallis delivery toward Boje in the gulley but the fielder failed to pick the flight of the ball and never moved.
Although the pitch is playing almost as well as it has throughout the match, 200 runs on the final day - with tension and nerves bound to play a part - seems certain to produce a thriller.