April 21, 2001

At last the West Indies look like a team

I have been touring and following the West Indies cricket team for about six years now, and with the exception of the that first Test match in New Zealand at the turn of the last millennium, when they were 282-1, and yet lost, the West Indies would

I have been touring and following the West Indies cricket team for about six years now, and with the exception of the that first Test match in New Zealand at the turn of the last millennium, when they were 282-1, and yet lost, the West Indies would not have been in a better position to win a Test match recently. Especially for the young, inexperienced players in this West Indies team, they need to win this final Test.

For the first time since their last Test match win, 14 games ago, the West Indies, 118 runs ahead overall, with all of their second innings wickets still in hand, have put themselves into their best position to win for only the second time against the South Africans. If they do, it would be their first Test match victory since beating England at Edgbaston last year.

Their position is due almost entirely to a tremendous effort from the faster bowlers - veteran Courtney Walsh with 3-31, the improving Merv Dillon with 4-31 and Cameron Cuffy with 2-58 - thus effecting South Africa's lowest score against the hosts in 11 Tests - 141.

It was a truly professional performance by the West Indies, something they have threatened many times this series, but not fulfilled. For once the bowlers kept a good length, good line and especially good heads.

After Dininath Ramnarine had made his highest Test score, 35, playing like the batsman his batsmen had not been to help the West Indies reach 225, the South African batsmen uncharacteristically capitulated to some continuously steady West Indian bowling.

At one stage South Africa were on their knees at 97-6 as the West Indians really turned the screws before Neil McKenzie, batting confidently and patiently for his 45, put on 40 with Pollock for the seventh wicket. It was South Africa's last stand. Once Pollock had been dismissed by a good Dillon delivery for 24 and both McKenzie and Justin Kemp had also gone at 137, there was no coming back for the visitors.

Now, in an unaccustomed position of having the ascendancy in a Test match, the West Indies must capitalise. If they can do it is now up to them. They are in they driver's seat.