Nash and Chanderpaul script Windies fightback
West Indies finally claimed ownership of an entire day's play and it came via a defiant double-century partnership between the two most patient batsmen in the line-up, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brendan Nash. The pair hit counter-attacking centuries to negate the aggression of the seamers and blunt out anything the slower bowlers dished out on what continued to be an unresponsive surface. West Indies breezed past the follow-on mark and redressed the balance after two days of toil in the field.
What was impressive from West Indies' point of view was the willingness to stick it out for as long as possible. South Africa had them on a leash on a slow morning, but the hosts didn't allow the pressure of two hours of attritional cricket to get to their heads and try anything silly. In that sense, West Indies were lucky that Nash and Chanderpaul were around to guide them. They may not match each other stance for stance or stroke for stroke, but in terms of temperament, they're on par. Their understanding of each other's game was evident in the way they kept pushing the scoring with singles and twos.
There was greater freedom of expression in the batting once Nash walked in after lunch. The batsmen were prepared to reach out to deliveries wide of the off stump and also exploit the wide gaps on the on side if the bowlers dropped it short. Before lunch, Chanderpaul looked circumspect outside his off stump against Morne Morkel. When Dale Steyn banged one in short, Chanderpaul took his eyes off and copped a blow on the grill.
After initially exercising caution outside his off stump, Chanderpaul started reaching out to the fuller ones shaping away, opening the face of the bat to glide it through the off side. Paul Harris hardly got any turn or bounce and Chanderpaul swept him powerfully behind square leg to bring up his fifty. There was a backward short leg in place for the spinner, but he was unemployed through the day.
Chanderpaul was also lucky to have a like-minded partner in Nash, back in his familiar No.5 position. He began by swatting Jacques Kallis past midwicket and didn't appear to be too bothered about the packed off-side field, which included two slips and two gullys. Morkel was guilty of giving width and Nash obliged by spanking fours past backward point off the front foot. Apart from a few edges to slip, some of which went for four, it was a neat innings.
The docile surface had no demons in it to worry the batsmen and Chanderpaul exploited that by regularly shuffling across the stumps to either flick the full-pitched balls or pull the short deliveries. Nash too wasn't afraid to swat away the short deliveries and that seemed to wind up an exasperated Steyn, who had a few words to say to him.
Nash's strength was primarily on the off side. Morkel was ineffective against him as Nash brought out the horizontal bat shots to steer the ball past gully. When he bowled it even shorter, Nash slashed over third man. Harris came round the wicket but Nash rocked back and cut him for fours in front of square.
He raced towards his century with a slash over slip off Steyn and biffed one past midwicket to reach three figures for the second time in his career, watched by his family in the stands. He had added 220 with Chanderpaul before AB de Villiers sent him back with a sharp bit of fielding, effecting a direct hit from gully.
Chanderpaul too progressed towards his century by milking the spinners, even employing the slog sweep. He reached his 22nd century with a square drive to point, and at the fag end of the day, brought up his 150. Dwayne Bravo played a quiet little supporting act after Nash's fall, adding an unbeaten 53 with Chanderpaul.
The pace of cricket was in contrast to the morning session, when only 40 runs were scored. Though South Africa didn't run through the top order as they would have hoped, they succeeded in applying pressure with their probing line outside off stump, backed by intelligent field placements. Boundary balls were few and far between as the seamers kept shaping the ball away with an expectant slip cordon and close catchers like silly mid-off waiting for a mistake.
Soon after reaching his fifty, Chris Gayle was out dragging a full ball from Morkel on to his stumps without any foot movement. The patient Narsingh Deonarine steered towards point at the stroke of lunch to bring up a workmanlike fifty. Having spent enough time getting his eye in, Deonarine pressed the pedal after lunch against the slower pace of Kallis. A few whiplashes over the off side gave the innings much-needed impetus but he soon caused his own downfall when, cramped for room trying to cut Steyn from round the wicket, he chopped it onto his stumps. It was similar to Gayle's dismissal, but in this instance it was more a wrong choice of shot.
Deonarine and Gayle would have punished themselves for not converting their fifties. Nash and Chanderpaul ensured they didn't make the same mistake.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo