West Indies on the rack as SA put the squeeze on
The nip and tuck nature of the Test series between the West Indies and South Africa continued in the fourth Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground on Saturday, as the tourists tigerishly defended a low first innings score and reduced the West Indies to 130-6 at stumps - a deficit of 117 - with captain Carl Hooper 16 and Ridley Jacobs 1.
It could - and perhaps should - have looked so much better for the West Indies at the close, as two wickets fell in the last 15 minutes of the day to tip the balance back in South Africa's favour. First the recalled Shivnarine Chanderpaul was very well caught by Daryll Cullinan at first slip off Justin Kemp for 40 and then nightwatchman Mervyn Dillon played down the wrong line and was bowled by Lance Klusener for a duck.
Chanderpaul fell just as he was starting to express himself, pulling Klusener through midwicket for four and driving Kemp majestically to the extra-cover fence. But if the Guyanan was undone by a good delivery, the manner in which all of the first four West Indian wickets fell can surely only have infuriated coach Roger Harper as one by one the batsmen presented their scalps to the South Africans on a silver salver.
Chris Gayle (11) has looked a real talent throughout this series, but he has also failed to convert several good starts into big scores. He came up short again on Saturday as he drove loosely at Jacques Kallis, his feet rooted to the crease as the ball flew off a thick edge to Shaun Pollock in the gully.
The South African captain then struck himself as Wavell Hinds tried to force him away off the back foot and edged a routine chance to Mark Boucher behind the stumps. Worse was to follow as Brian Lara - after flaying Makhaya Ntini over third man for six - the drove firmly but uppishly at Kemp and was brilliantly caught at cover by Neil McKenzie, diving fell length to his left.
The biggest sucker punch of all was yet to come, however. It should be no surprise that the man to fall into the trap was Ramnaresh Sarwan, a boy really at 20, but he should have known better.
Kallis softened him up with a short delivery which was pulled just over the head of Nicky Boje at square-leg, but when Sarwan tried the same shot again two balls later he failed to keep it down and Boje took a simple catch. The South Africans celebrated, as well they might have, enjoying a plan coming together so perfectly. Sarwan fell in the same way to the identical bowler/catcher combination in the second Test in Antigua.
Earlier, the West Indies fast bowlers - all two of them - wrapped up the South African first innings 25 minutes before lunch, Dillon polishing things off with two wickets in successive deliveries.
Resuming on 210-7, Pollock and Boje started cautiously, rotating the strike as they looked for ones and twos rather than the boundary ropes. Boje eventually changed the pattern with a six smashed straight over the head of left-arm spinner Neil McGarrell.
Courtney Walsh then trapped Boje leg before for 36, although the batsman will be disappointed to be given out to a ball which television replays showed had pitched outside leg stump.
Kemp survived a confident first-ball appeal which looked even more adjacent than Boje's the previous delivery and then proceeded to play confidently until Dillon squared him up with a beauty which hit off-stump.
Ntini followed in identical fashion the next ball, leaving Pollock stranded on 48, the captain hitting just the one boundary in an unusually defensive knock, albeit one which the South African cause demanded.