First Test

South Africa v West Indies

Tony Cozier and John Ward

At Johannesburg, December 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 2003. South Africa won by 189 runs. Toss: South Africa.

South Africa capitalised on winning the toss on a hard, dry pitch that developed cracks which widened in the fierce, constant heat. They seized control on the first day when it was at its truest, and Smith's 132, in his first home Test as captain, followed by a commanding partnership between Kallis and van Jaarsveld, carried them to 368 for three. In spite of more controlled West Indian bowling and Lara's sixth Test doublecentury (the second in a losing cause), including a Test-record 28 in an over, they completed their victory 20 minutes before tea on the last day.

Smith and Gibbs set South Africa on the way with an opening stand of 149, and the removal of Gibbs - after an unusually restrained innings - and Rudolph in quick succession brought only temporary relief for West Indies. Kallis arrived, putting on 80 with Smith, who finally edged the pacy but erratic Edwards low to first slip after hitting 22 fours off 184 balls. Kallis went on to add another 128 by the close with van Jaarsveld, who seized the chance offered by Gary Kirsten's decision to attend the birth of his son (delivered during the second day) to play with attractive ease.

West Indies were handicapped when Gayle, their only passable spinner, pulled up in the outfield with a torn right hamstring muscle; his further participation was restricted to hobbling through two innings down the order with a runner. But van Jaarsveld was lbw in the first over of the second day, from Dillon, who later produced one that kept low to bowl Kallis for a chanceless 158 featuring a six and 17 fours. West Indies eventually claimed the last seven wickets for 189, the final three through Hinds's medium-pace swing.

They made an encouraging start to their reply but, inevitably, it was left to Lara to eliminate the prospect of the follow-on. He started hesitantly, offering a low, but straightforward, chance to Pollock at first slip off Ntini when 15, but gradually found his customary timing and placement. There was little progress at the other end: Ganga needed over two hours to add 11 to his overnight 49 and Chanderpaul spent more than two and a half hours contributing 34 to a stand of 125. But Lara's momentum was building. His century was West Indies' first on South African soil, and his fusillade of two straight sixes and four fours in the third day's penultimate over, from Peterson, broke the New Zealander Craig McMillan's record for most runs in a Test match over. It also reduced the deficit to exactly 200. Next morning, he reached his double-hundred with his 32nd four - and drove the next ball, his 274th, to extra cover, to be ninth out. His latest masterpiece of an innings occupied seven hours 17 minutes.

South Africa's lead was 151 and, although Gibbs retired with a broken nose, when an edged hook off Drakes burst through his grille, they progressed to a second-innings declaration at more than three and a half runs an over. Smith challenged West Indies to score 378 off the remaining 100 overs.

If they found hope in their record 418 to beat Australia in Antigua seven months earlier, it was quickly quashed. Ntini despatched both openers and night-watchman Drakes before the close, and Pollock followed up next morning by removing Sarwan and Lara within the first seven overs.

Responding to the crisis of 43 for five, Chanderpaul abandoned his usual guise as steady accumulator and went into attack mode, stroking 13 fours in all directions to score 74 from 91 balls before he swung Pollock to long leg. Gayle thumped six fours in eight balls from Nel before the ninth had him taken at slip. Nel's version of the haka into the departing batsman's face cost him half his match fee, in a fine from referee Ranjan Madugalle. But South Africa's victory always looked assured. Man of the Match: M. Ntini. Attendance: 39,108.

© John Wisden & Co