Smith cashes in on perfect pitch
Close South Africa 368 for 3 (Smith 132, Gibbs 60, Kallis 87*, van Jaarsveld 69*) v West Indies
Graeme Smith avoids a Fidel Edwards bouncer on his way to 132
Graeme Smith said this Wanderers pitch was a belter before the match started, and right from the second ball - the first one he could reach - he set about proving it. In his first home match as captain, Smith pasted 132 to lay the foundations for a huge total. By the close South Africa had amassed 368 for 3, and West Indies' limited bowling resources were increasingly stretched.
Smith shovelled the second ball of the day, from Fidel Edwards, over short leg's head to the fence, and there were 21 more fours in all for Smith as he bustled past his fifth Test century. He was in ominously solid form from the start after winning the toss. Those characteristic clunking pushes off his legs, so evident during his big scores in the early part of last summer's series in England, were again to the fore. He went to his half-century from 76 balls, and played the major role in an opening stand of 149 with Herschelle Gibbs.
Shortly before tea Smith reached his hundred, which came up from 147 balls in 226 minutes. His closest shave came from the last ball before tea, when he had 110. Ramnaresh Sarwan looped down one of his rarely-seen legbreaks, and Smith pushed it firmly round the corner. At short leg Brian Lara knocked the ball up, but couldn't quite hold on to the bobbling rebound. Smith walked off, relieved; Lara held his head in frustration.
The torture continued for a while after tea, before Smith drove at a wide one from Edwards and edged it low to slip, where this time Lara gratefully held on. Smith said later: "Throughout my innings my feet did not work well" - the bowlers would probably dispute that - "but my hands did and I felt good on the drive."
That wicket made it 240 for 3 - but it was the last celebration of the day for the West Indians. Jacques Kallis was equally solid, once tonking Daren Ganga's rusty offspin for a big six. He also collected eight fours, but was outscored in a lively fourth-wicket partnership so far worth 128 - a Test record at the Wanderers - by Martin Jaarsveld, who reached his maiden half-century in his fourth Test with two crunching fours off Corey Collymore. There were ten other boundaries as van Jaarsveld cruised to 69 not out and flogged the tiring bowlers.
Earlier the openers had put on 149. Gibbs was more restrained than usual, and he was lucky to escape when one from Vasbert Drakes moved sharply back into him but flew just over the top of middle stump. Drakes caused the batsmen to hop about a bit, and Edwards's slingy action pushed them back on their heels at times, but generally the West Indian attack toiled on an unforgiving track.
Chris Gayle is helped off the field with a suspected pulled hamstring
Jacques Rudolph joined his captain - but not for long. He had made only 2 when he stretched to drive at one from Drakes which was moving away, and edged it low to the diving Lara at first slip (160 for 2). On TV one of the Afrikaans commentators observed acidly: "If Rudolph went back to school now he would struggle to make the first team."
But the departure of the red-faced Rudolph only brought in Kallis, his eyes wide open - perhaps he couldn't believe how flat the track was - and he set out his stall for a big score. He finished the day 13 short of what would be his 12th Test century.
In the morning South Africa had left out Andrew Hall and the uncapped Garnett Kruger from their assembled squad, preferring the pace of Andre Nel to Hall's batting potential. West Indies, wracked by injuries which have led to Marlon Samuels, Omari Banks and Jerome Taylor flying home, decided not to risk the untried left-arm spin of the recently arrived Dave Mohammed, and went in with four fast bowlers.
Lara was philosophical after losing the toss: "We won the toss here five years ago and batted, and you know what happened then." Five years ago South Africa won a low-scoring game by four wickets: this time, on a perfect pitch, high scoring was always going to be the order of the day.
After his innings Smith reflected on a fine first day in charge at home. "It's my first hundred at the Wanderers, and a very good way to start the series. Herschelle and I worked well together, talking and encouraging each other. I had some nerves in the nineties, and had to fight off some demons." After South Africa's display most of those demons will have decamped to the other dressing-room, where the West Indian bowlers have a lot of hard graft ahead of them tomorrow - and then their batsmen will need to outSmith the South Africans.