First Test

South Africa v West Indies 1998-99

Toss: West Indies. Test debuts. D. J. Terbrugge; R. D. Jacobs.

West Indies came to close to winning this First Test and, had they done so, the series might have gone very differently. Just before tea on the fourth day, Jacobs and Hooper, who had joined forces at 80 for five, had inched their side towards a position of strength on a pitch showing increasing signs of unevenness. With their stand worth 68, West Indies were 141 ahead and on course to set a psychologically intimidating target of 200 plus. But both batsmen then fell in successive overs - Jacobs to a dreadful shot - and not long afterwards the final three wickets were frittered away in just four balls. The last gave Pollock his 100th Test victim in the same match, his 26th, in which he had passed 1,000 Test runs. Trevor Goddard was the only South African to achieve this double before.

Set 164, by no means a routine target, South Africa were fortunate that bad light spared them an awkward hour at the end of the fourth day. When play resumed next morning in intense heat, Lara had the problem of marshalling his fast-bowling resources in an extended two-and-a-half hour session. Ambrose and Walsh had superb opening spells, but neither came back as convincingly. With Lara unprepared to risk McLean for more than five overs, Lewis's leg-spin causing few problems and Hooper still hampered by a groin strain, his options were limited. After starting out most uncertainly - creeping to 29 for two from 22 overs - the South Africans at last began to play positively. Once they did so, victory looked increasingly assured. Cullinan and Cronje played aggressive cameos, while Kallis anchored one end. Crucially, the pitch did not deteriorate further.

It had started to become uneven from day two, and then both slower and lower. Batsmen did not find it particularly easy to day shots, but equally bowlers found it difficult to prise them out. In short, it was not a good cricket wicket. Batting conditions were at their best on the first day when West Indies, having won a good toss, missed an opportunity to hit 350 or more. Pollock was largely responsible for holding them with a superb opening spell of three for 19 from eight overs. But Donald was uncharacteristically wayward; his first eight overs cost 50, and allowed West Indies to recover. However, he did return later to take two important wickets, including Chanderpaul, whose determined 74 lasted four and a half hours. Hooper strained his groin while batting, and needed a runner, which became significant in the field later.

Walsh, bowling with skill and heart, passed Malcolm Marshall's West Indian Test record of 376 wickets when Williams held a brilliant catch at second slip to remove Kallis. Ambrose gave tight support, despite 13 no-balls, but the other two bowlers did not. McLean was inconsistent, and Lewis, who had flown in on the morning of the match, looked understandably jet-lagged. South Africa gained a modest but psychologically important first-innings lead thanks to the tail, audaciously marshalled by Symcox. Later, he was effective bowling into the rough to West Indies' six left-handers.

Once again, though, it was Pollock who stood out in West Indies' second innings. The other bowlers did their bit by maintaining pressure. Donald accounted for Lara from around the wicket with a rapid delivery that came back and kept low. Wallace and Williams got out playing poor shots. West Indies could not quite score enough, and the pattern for the series was set.

Man of the Match: S. M. Pollock.

Attendance: 54,620.

Close of the play: First day, West Indies 249-7 (McLean 23* Lewis 11*); Second day, South Africa 217-6 (Cronje 39*, Boucher 2*); Third day, West Indies 20-0 (Lambert 7*, Wallace 12*); Fourth day, West Indies 170.

© John Wisden & Co