South Africa retain edge on run-heavy day
The South Africans continued to cruise along a Country Road of a pitch at Warner Park for the second day in a row, increasing their century count to three before eventually declaring at a seemingly unassailable 543. Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers made contrasting centuries against a listless bowling attack, and though West Indies weren't guilty of any glaring errors unlike the opening day, their body language suggested they were waiting for the inevitable declaration.
After spending the better part of two days on the field, West Indies made a decent start with the bat after losing Travis Dowlin early. Chris Gayle and Narsingh Deonarine blunted the new-ball pair of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and proceeded to 86 for 1 before bad light intervened.
South Africa were well on course to a massive score after setting a solid platform on the opening day. They approached the second with a plan. Preservation of wickets, without too many risks, was the theme of the opening session but after lunch, the aim was acceleration. de Villiers, who has the ability to shift gears according to the situation, stepped on the gas as South Africa eyed a declaration.
He started off the day watchfully, but found his groove against the easy offerings from Ravi Rampaul. A short delivery was crunched past midwicket and a fuller one was crashed past cover. When spin was introduced, de Villiers sashayed down the track to pull out some exquisite lofts.
de Villiers began the afternoon session with a cut off Sulieman Benn to bring up his fifty, followed by a bludgeoning pull off the same bowler to clear deep square leg. The timing of his shots was exemplified by two gorgeous drives off the front foot off Kemar Roach, one past cover and the other wide of mid-on. Placement was not an issue for de Villiers as he used his feet to the spinners and bisected gaps perfectly towards the on-side boundary. He brought out the chipped shots, firm sweeps and front foot pulls with crisp timing. His first fifty came off 84 balls while his second came off just 46. Unlike Kallis, who plodded around for 15 balls on 99, de Villiers searched for the quickest route to the top. He went from 95 to 101 by chipping down the track to Benn and launching him over long-on.
He celebrating his tenth Test ton by popping a pill and dashing to the loo for an unusually long break, much to amusement to his team-mates and the spectators. A declaration was around the corner as the tea break neared and de Villiers predictably maintained the pace. On either side of the tea break, he gave Shane Shillingford a hard time by dancing down the track to fetch massive sixes.
Kallis' knock wasn't as exhilarating, but he ensured South Africa didn't lose any wickets in the morning. He approached his fifty with a neat reverse-sweep for four and then brought up his milestone with a conventional one down to fine leg. He was tested against the new ball by Roach who kept banging it short, including one that smacked him on the helmet. But Roach got monotonous with his length and Kallis started pulling him regularly pulled past square leg.
Kallis flicked Bravo stylishly past midwicket to become the sixth batsman to pass 11000 Test runs. Post lunch, after a long wait in the nineties, he reached his century with a cut past backward point. A top edged sweep to Rampaul at long leg - a fine catch falling backwards - ended his knock, but his 138-run association set up the declaration.
There was no pitch deterioration or variable bounce when West Indies came out to bat. Dowlin, who did well in Australia in his new role as opener to see off the new ball, failed to replicate that here. He reached forward and poked at a Morkel delivery shaping away from him and the resultant outside edge was taken by an agile de Villiers at third slip.
West Indies ensured they didn't repeat the mistake of sending Brendan Nash at No.3 and instead sent in Deonarine, who's more accustomed to the position. Morkel peppered him with short balls from over the wicket, with one pounding his elbow. Gayle was watchful against the seamers early on, preparing to leave deliveries shaping away from him.
However, he was classy against the fuller deliveries coming in to him. After stabbing at one from Lonwabo Tsotsobe, which scorched down the ground, he cracked two delightful boundaries past mid-off off Morkel. Deonarine too capitalised on the pitched-up deliveries and when Paul Harris was introduced, he welcomed him with a huge six over long-on. The pair also did well to fend off the short deliveries in fading light. With the pitch still loaded with runs, the outcome of the game will depend on how long West Indies bat.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo