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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

To the victors, the kudos

It was wonderful while it lasted, but it probably was too much too late, or too little too late, whichever way one wants to take it. To be very honest, no team that makes 140 in any innings of a Test match deserves to even have a chance to win a Test match, yet the West Indies did have that chance, albeit a slim chance, while Brian Lara was at the crease.

At least Lara showed that he still has the goods to produce, especially under duress and severe external stimuli. While he played well, he still needs, as he suggested, "to be as consistent as players like Steve Waugh and Sachin Tendeulkar." For the sake of West Indies cricket, I hope that consistency starts now. The youth of the West Indies team need some positive batting example.

Lara batted like a man possessed for his 91, and while, in the end, it was futile, it was wonderful to watch, enjoy and even think "If only ..." His innings included eight fours and four sixes, and even a chance too, badly dropped by Makhaya Ntini at square leg, a catch which would have given Nicky Boje his fifth wicket. Ntini would have been overjoyed when Lara was eventually out.

However, Lara would find little solace in the fact that South Africa won by "only" 82 runs. While Lara did all in his power, and was ninth out, the rest of the West Indies batting, especially the middle order, should look at themselves in the mirror, and hopefully, they would not like what they see there. In a few words, as Carl Hooper suggested, "We batted badly." At least Hooper is starting to learn a bit too. He is now using tremendous understatements.

The final day was truly South Africa's captain Shaun Pollock's, and no-one would argue that he was not the eventual man of the match as he took the morning session for his team.

The hosts meandered from 101-4 overnight to 155-7 as Ramnaresh Sarwan, after looking better and better with every delivery he faced, again lost his concentration at the wrong time, nibbled at a leg-cutter, and that was that - out for 26.

Ridley Jacobs, looking rather tired of the entire proceedings, drove at Pollock's slower ball to exit for no score.

Neil McGarrell probably found out that making 20s and 30s in first class cricket equates to maybe 30 percent of that at Test level, his 6 being just about par for the course.

Boje got his fourth wicket, that of Merv Dillon, caught at slip off the glove by Daryll Cullinan, but it was left to Jacques Kallis, with the second new ball, to complete the demolition after Lara's heroics, and including Lara's wicket.

Pollock may have been somewhat worried at Lara's onslaught, but he would also have realized that the middle was already gone, so the tail would seldom stand in those circumstances. It was just a matter of time.

Strangely, the pitch did not play as badly on the last day as expected, but Boje still finished with 4-118 from 45 marathon overs, while Pollock had 3-41 and Kallis 2-23.

South Africa, by winning this game, and taking an unbeatable 2-0 lead with only one Test left, thus becomes only the second team to beat the West Indies at home since 1973, after Australia in 1995.

Maybe two quotes here from former Test captains might be apt.

"There is nothing else we can do," says (Sir) Vivian Richards, the only West Indies captain never to have lost a series when in the position of captain. "We simply have to have a better attitude, a better approach, if we are going to play with the big boys."

Jimmy Adams, who was replaced by Carl Hooper, on the other hand, at least was tremendously honest with himself when he suggested, "Many think that losing so much on tours is as bad as it can get. That is not entirely true. We can also start losing at home." That has started.

How the West Indies retaliate in Jamaica in a week's time could be interesting. They panicked badly in Barbados and in Antigua & Barbuda. Now, somehow, they have to regroup.

In the meantime, South Africa deserves all of the kudos, since they certainly played the better cricket over the last five days and over the last four Tests.

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