Smith debut century denies South Africa
West Indies 427 and 354 for 5 (Smith 105*, Lara 86, Sarwan 69) drew with South Africa 532 and 335 for 3 dec
A wonderful debut century for Dwayne Smith
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West Indies held on for what was in the end a comfortable draw against South Africa in the third Test at Cape Town. Dwayne Smith was the hero for West Indies, scoring a magnificent unbeaten century on his debut as they closed on 354 for 5, 87 runs short of victory. The result meant that South Africa took the series, being 2-0 up and with only one Test left, but at least West Indies ended their wretched run of seven consecutive defeats in South Africa.
After being set an improbable 441 to win at the start of the day, West Indies faltered to 47 for 2, but Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan added an entertaining 156 to keep their survival chances alive. Smith then raced them to safety with a memorable century off only 93 balls, including 15 fours and two sixes, as he became the 11th West Indian to score a hundred on Test debut.
Coming in with the game in the balance at 224 for 4, Smith was quite prepared to play his shots despite the situation. Completely unfazed, he continuously chipped and whipped Paul Adams and Makhaya Ntini in the air on the leg side. He rode his luck at times, but sped to his maiden Test half-century from only 52 balls with a steepling straight six off Adams.
The new ball was then taken with 23 overs remaining as South Africa looked for the win, and even though Shaun Pollock removed the out-of-sorts Hinds (296 for 5), Smith continued undaunted. He smacked Ntini through the covers and back past his head before the shot of the day when he square-drove Ntini for an astonishing six. Pollock then got the treatment, hammered for 11 off one over. Smith moved to the nineties with a picture-book pull off Andre Nel and brought up his hundred with a pearling cover-drive later in the same over. All this in your first match - not bad. Suddenly, the prospect of a West Indies win wasn't that far out of the equation.
In the end, Smith and Ridley Jacobs held out for a well-deserved draw, which was earlier set up by the free-flowing stand from Lara and Sarwan. After Ntini struck twice early on with the wickets of Daren Ganga and Chris Gayle, Lara and Sarwan came to the rescue and frustrated the bowlers with some attacking strokeplay.
Lara was positive from the start and had no hesitation in playing his shots allround the wicket. He blazed 14 boundaries in his classy 86, picking the gaps to perfection. He did have the odd slice of luck early on, but he duly scored his 43rd Test fifty with a blazing cover-drive off Pollock, and followed that up with a thumping pull over midwicket. He signalled the hundred partnership with another bruising drive for four off Pollock as West Indies' chances of survival increased every minute he was at the crease.
Sarwan, meanwhile, played more conservatively. He was happy to nudge the singles and give Lara the majority of the strike. He also had a stroke of fortune when he was dropped on 27. Attempting to leave an Adams quicker ball, he got a faint edge which cannoned off Mark Boucher's thigh and flew to Pollock at first slip, who put the chance down.
Pointing the way: Makhaya Ntini celebrates the early wicket of Daren Ganga
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And it proved to be an expensive miss as Sarwan started to flourish. He drove and cut to precision and guided Ntini through the covers off the back foot on his way to a half-century off 100 balls. Suddenly Graeme Smith was starting to worry, illustrated by his more defensive field settings and regular conferences with Boucher.
But whatever they had said, it was Nel who did the trick for them. He made the big breakthrough with the prized scalp of Lara, who went to pull a short ball but bottomedged low to Boucher (203 for 3). It was a big wicket, and a deserved one for Nel, who was the pick of the bowlers. He strove hard all day for that elusive breakthrough, and he even swapped the bails over a few times in an attempt to change South Africa's luck - and it worked.
Sarwan then fell soon after tea when he fended at a well-directed short ball from Ntini, and popped the ball up straight to Herschelle Gibbs at gully for an invaluable 69 from 169 balls (224 for 4). At that stage, the match could have gone either way - but Smith made sure it didn't with an innings to remember.