Boucher and Benn share honours on tight day
South Africa 352 (Boucher 69, de Villiers 68, Benn 5-120) v West Indies
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Sulieman Benn picked up his second five-wicket haul in Tests, finishing with 5 for 120 as South Africa were eventually bowled out for 352, but the visitors will feel they had the better of an attritional second day at the Queens Park Oval. Twice West Indies had South Africa in real trouble; firstly when nightwatchman Paul Harris and Jacques Kallis fell in quick succession, and then again when Ashwell Prince and AB de Villiers fell within four overs of each other after adding 122 to leave South Africa wobbling at 238 for 7.
But both times the visiting batsmen were able to claw their team back into the game, and Mark Boucher shepherded the tail superbly in registering his 33rd half-century in Tests to quieten questions over his worth in the side. As expected, spin dominated the day's play, with nine wickets falling to slow bowlers as Shane Shillingford finished with figures of 3 for 96 on debut, and Chris Gayle chipped in with the wicket of Prince.
Though there seemed to be considerably less life in the track than there had been in the 34 overs that were possible on the opening day, the welcome sun sapping all moisture out of the pitch, there was still plenty of turn on offer for the finger spinners. Both Benn and Shillingford also made cunning use of variations in flight and turn; Benn darting arm balls in from around the wicket, and Shillingford bowling a delivery close to the doosra, either pitching and going on straight or breaking away slightly.
West Indies' effort in the field also couldn't be faulted. Brendan Nash was exemplary in this regard, throwing himself around athletically to save countless runs and build some pressure on the batsmen. Lapses were few and, until the frustrating 86-run stand for the eighth wicket between Boucher and Dale Steyn, the hosts' body language was positive and their intensity strong.
Rather, credit must go to a thoroughly patient and determined effort from South Africa's middle and lower order. After both of the overnight batsmen fell early - Harris tapping a short ball straight to cover and Kallis shuffling across to the off side only to be struck on the pad in front of the stumps in the 14th over of the day - Gayle kept his spinners operating at both ends, but de Villiers and Prince dug in despite the generous turn in this pitch.
There was still the odd moment of alarm when West Indies thought de Villiers had given Travis Dowlin a bat-pad catch at short leg off Shillingford in the 20th over of the day. But Asad Rauf disagreed, and his decision was upheld even after Gayle had asked for a referral - West Indies' last one for the innings.
Nelon Pascal, who bowled with good rhythm but was underused on Thursday as the spinners found conditions to their liking, started his second spell of the game poorly, but soon found his tempo and West Indies were convinced Prince had edged him through to Ramdin in his third over of the day. There was a faint sound as ball passed bat, and Prince turned back as the ball thudded into Ramdin's gloves, but Steve Davis didn't agree and West Indies had used up all their referrals.
As the batsmen continued to accumulate steadily, what stood out in both of their innings was a fearless use of the feet as they went down the pitch time and again to put the spinners off their rhythm. de Villiers went to 49 with such a shot, sashaying down the track and slapping Benn through the covers with perfect precision, and when both batsmen passed fifty it appeared they had managed to conquer the demons in the pitch.
The partnership was finally broken with what, in hindsight, will be called an inspired piece of captaincy, as Gayle brought himself on in the 54th over of the day and immediately had Prince well caught for 57 by Dowlin at leg gully with his first delivery.
That one over was all the bowling Gayle did, but shortly after the breakthrough Benn floated one up outside off and found enough turn to take the edge of de Villiers' attempted drive. Strangely, de Villiers walked without being given out by umpire Rauf - who hadn't looked like giving that decision - even though South Africa still had a referral at their disposal and his stay at the crease was vital to their building a large first-innings score.
Boucher and Steyn saw off Ravi Rampaul, who bowled an erratic spell with a reverse-swinging old ball, settled when the new ball was taken, and then went on the attack before Steyn charged down the track to be stumped for 39. Benn bowled Morne Morkel soon after for his fifth wicket, but Boucher went to his fifty from 102 balls and added a further 22 before he lofted to long off to give Bravo his first wicket.
South Africa will be buoyed by their team effort, but a lot will now rest on Harris's shoulders as their only specialist slow bowler on a surface which hasn't given fast bowlers nearly the amount of assistance it has to the spinners.