Third Test

South Africa v West Indies

Tony Cozier and John Ward

At Cape Town, January 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2004. Drawn. Toss: South Africa. Test debuts: D. Mohammed, D. R. Smith.

Both captains, being batsmen, described the pitch as "fabulous". It yielded 1,648 runs at 3.8 an over, for only 28 wickets, and there were seven individual hundreds, only the third time so many had been scored in one Test. Gayle powered to his from 79 balls - the ninth fastest recorded in Tests - and Kallis thumped five sixes in his third century in successive matches as South Africa sped towards a second-innings declaration. Yet none was more spectacular or significant than the last, Dwayne Smith's unbeaten run-a-ball 105 on debut. It not only ensured West Indies avoided their eighth successive Test defeat in South Africa but briefly raised the possibility of an incredible victory.

The 20-year-old Smith, a surprise choice as the injured Marlon Samuels's tour replacement, was playing only because Chanderpaul had a leg strain. When he entered 20 minutes after tea on the final day, another beating looked likely. Lara and Sarwan had been dismissed either side of the interval after a patient partnership of 156, more than 37 overs remained and, at 224 for four, the target of 441 was not an issue. Batting with what Lara called "the exuberance of youth", Smith launched an offensive that rapidly changed the balance of the contest. He was especially severe on Adams, but no bowler was spared as he rushed to 100 from 93 balls; his partners, Hinds and Jacobs, made 18 between them. Eventually, with only the bowlers to come, Lara decided victory was unrealistic. Once Smith passed his landmark, with 102 needed from 13 overs, he and Jacobs were instructed to play out time, the match ending in anticlimax with five overs remaining.

After South Africa won the toss for the third time, the left-handed Rudolph, who spent four and a half hours compiling his second Test hundred, and McKenzie laid the foundation for another large total with a stand of 142. They were both out to the lefthanded wrist-spin of Dave Mohammed, another debutant, in the closing overs of the day, and Pollock followed in the second over next morning. But West Indies lost their grip after Boucher, on 15, was bowled by an Edwards no-ball.

Boucher used the chance, and the conditions, to complete a century, stroking 21 fours and adding 146 with Kallis, who maintained his high-scoring form after resuming an innings interrupted on the first day by a blow to the forearm from Edwards. Boucher was unbeaten when South Africa were finally dismissed after passing 500 for the third match running.

The remaining 35 overs of the second day were utterly dominated by Gayle, returning after injury with a breathtaking display of clean hitting. A six and 19 fours (there were 20 in all) carried him to his hundred, which he reached out of 125 in the 23rd over, and Sarwan followed his lead with 39 from 43 balls as West Indies closed at 178 for one. Both were early victims next morning and it was once more left to Lara, with modest support down the order, to avoid the follow-on. On the way to his 24th Test hundred, Lara passed 9,000 runs in his 177th Test innings, two fewer than Tendulkar, who had got there in Sydney two days earlier. After striking 16 fours and a six, Lara was last out to his 238th ball, providing Nel with his first five-wicket return in Tests.

West Indies claimed two early wickets on the fourth day; then their cricket went to pieces as Gibbs and Kallis made merry under the floodlights. They added 251 in 59 overs, separated by weather interruptions. Between them, they belted seven sixes in the final session, when West Indies spilled four catches. Gayle was responsible for two but finally held one to account for Gibbs.

Graeme Smith's declaration gave his bowlers the entire last day to try to clinch a third win. They were stymied for over three hours by Lara and more than four by Sarwan, but the final, immovable obstacle was Dwayne Smith. It was the first time West Indies had escaped defeat in a Test in South Africa; the draw, however, was enough to give South Africa the series. Smith's hundred was the seventh of the match, a mark not reached in nearly half a century since the West Indies-Australia Test at Sabina Park in 1954-55. The only instance in a Test before that was the Trent Bridge Ashes match of 1938.

Man of the Match: J. H. Kallis. Attendance: 52,235.

© John Wisden & Co