Third Test

West Indies v South Africa, 2004-05

Telford Vice

At Bridgetown, April 21, 22, 23, 24, 2005. South Africa won by an innings and 86 runs. Toss: West Indies.

Again, Lara delivered an innings that will be remembered for ever by those who saw it. But again, a South African fast bowler trumped the ace, and this time it secured the series. The bowler this time was not the lion-hearted Ntini, it was the steadily maturing galumpher, Andre Nel, who hissed, glared and bowled his way to a careerbest ten for 88 - his maiden ten-for in first-class cricket.

But before Nel and the rest of the South Africans could savour their success, they had to endure another stupendous innings from Lara, whose 176 saved West Indies from ignominy. The score was 12 for three in the seventh over when Lara and Chanderpaul raised their heads above the parapet, and their fightback endured until just before tea, when Chanderpaul, aiming to cut, was caught behind.

Lara went three overs before the close, bowled off the inside edge by Nel, by which time he had lashed all the bowlers: cut, drive, pull, hook... The South Africans seemed resigned to granting Lara his runs, secure in the knowledge that they were masters of everyone else. It worked: Nel and Zondeki shared eight wickets and wrapped up the innings 20 balls into the second morning. South Africa then responded with their own methodical approach. They had an opening pair, Graeme Smith and de Villiers, capable of putting on 191 and a pitch that was a delight to bat on. Smith reached his second hundred in successive Tests before slicing a ball from Gayle to extra cover, while de Villiers maintained his unusually subdued vigil into the third day for a career-best 178. Dippenaar and Kallis were the other main contributors to an innings that seemed sure to grind on for ever. The declaration at last came in the sixth over of the fourth day, giving South Africa a lead of 252.

The pitch was still sound, but the West Indian batting was not. When West Indies lost three wickets in four balls and lurched to 17 for three the result seemed all but inevitable - even though that key partnership of Lara and Chanderpaul had still to be broken. Lara had to face a hat-trick ball from Ntini and though he dealt with that comfortably enough, Nel trapped both men lbw after lunch. Despite his reputation for show, he bowled with almost as much brain as brawn and brouhaha, and he would end with Test-best figures of six for 32. (It was the seventh time in eight innings he had removed Lara, though from those seven Lara had hit 626 runs.)

From 71 for six, Browne banished some of the shocked silence from the stands with a carefree - and by that stage pressure-free - cameo of 68 off 75 balls. He hammered five fours and four sixes, and the crowd rejoiced with each as if he were speeding West Indies towards an epic victory. But eventually a pull off Nel was not as mighty as intended and he was caught by Dippenaar at deep square leg. The innings and the match were suddenly over, the series decided, and the fun spoiled. "CRUSHED!" was the headline along the top of the Nation's front page next day. No one could argue. The paper's cartoon featured two sets of stumps, and a large hole where the pitch might have been. "At de crease Souf Africa batsmen always dig in... while we jus' dig we self in a hole," ran the caption.

Man of the Match: A. Nel.

© John Wisden & Co.