First Test

West Indies v South Africa, 2004-05

Telford Vice

At Georgetown, March 31, April 1, 2, 3, 4, 2005. Drawn. Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: N. Deonarine, D. J. Pagon.

Playing one of the most resolute of all defensive innings, Jacques Kallis guided South Africa to safety after an innings defeat had seemed inevitable. He batted almost seven hours and faced 346 balls for his unbeaten 109, and steered his side through the potential minefield they faced after following on 355 behind. Dropped on 22, he batted as though the idea of defeat had never entered his mind. The pitch was Kallis's ally. It had barely deteriorated by the time he took guard on the fourth evening, and it continued to behave for much of the final day.

For South Africa, defeat at the hands of a severely weakened team would have been a crippling setback. West Indies went into the match with only one survivor, Chanderpaul, from their last Test, at The Oval in August. That team had been short enough of class and collective wisdom, and the loss of Lara and the six players directly involved in the contractual dispute appeared to rule the rump West Indian team out of contention.

None of the squabbling seemed to matter as Wavell Hinds and Chanderpaul strode to centuries on the first day. "Brian Who?" was the question in the stands at the end of the second after Hinds, who survived a chance on 13, and his new captain Chanderpaul both hit double-hundreds. For Hinds, who faced 297 balls, batted 438 minutes and hit 34 fours and two sixes, it was a maiden double (and briefly the highest score for West Indies against South Africa); for Chanderpaul, who faced 369 balls, batted 509 minutes and hit 23 fours, it was his fourth, though his first in Tests. The moment the captain passed 200, in fading light, he declared with the score 543 for five, then West Indies' biggest total in this fixture. The move betrayed inexperience: after two deliveries Graeme Smith and de Villiers were offered the light, and an opportunity to keep the South Africans working in the field was wasted.

The visitors, who were badly missing the injured Shaun Pollock, seemed to bowl without a plan, especially on the first day. By the third, their batsmen were looking similarly aimless, and were reduced to 130 for six in the 37 overs' play allowed by overnight rain. Next day they subsided to 188 all out with the West Indian pace attack sharing nine wickets by doing nothing more than consistently putting the ball on a length outside off stump.

Following on, South Africa lost de Villiers just after tea. The tension rose palpably when the well-set Graeme Smith was bowled by an inswinger from Collins, and by the close, after 63 overs, they were 85 for two. The West Indians knew what they had to do to win: remove Kallis. But that proved a bridge too far. His granite resolve on the final day was as inevitable as the sunrise, but the restraint shown by the more excitable Gibbs, who batted four hours for his 49, was less predictable. The pair were at their most unruffled between lunch and tea, when they added 45 in 30 overs. All told, South Africa, who lost just two wickets on the last day, batted out 161 overs - and looked a safe bet to last another 161, had time allowed. The satisfaction on their faces afterwards spoke of a team who knew the real winners, regardless of the result. "We came in as underdogs," said Chanderpaul, "we scored more than 500 and our bowlers did well. I don't think we would want to change much about this match." Except, though he didn't say it, the result.

Man of the Match: S. Chanderpaul.

© John Wisden & Co.