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December 27, 2007
West Indies are turning out to be far tougher opposition for the South Africans than most would have imagined. After being kept in the field for five sessions - thanks largely to another immense display by Shivnarine Chanderpaul - the home team stumbled badly with the bat, losing half the side for 122 to finish the day still 286 behind West Indies' 408.
Over the last few years, West Indies have struggled to maintain discipline and intensity over long periods - which explains their shambolic recent record - but today both were abundantly in display. Chanderpaul played another typically serene innings that has become his hallmark. He was finally ninth man out for 104, which made him the third batsman - after Everton Weekes and Andy Flower - to make seven successive fifty-plus scores in Tests.
It was only the fourth time that a team had scored 400 against South Africa after being put in. Suitably inspired by that batting effort, Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor then turned it on in conditions that offered little for them - the sun was out throughout the day and the pitch remained excellent for batting - to have the South Africans running for cover.
Powell struck the first blow off his fifth delivery, shaping one away from Herschelle Gibbs to induce an edge which continued Gibbs' woeful form: he hasn't scored a hundred in his last 44 innings, and averages 26.31 during that period. Jacques Kallis' form can hardly be questioned, but he didn't fare any better, withdrawing his bat too late while attempting to leave, and offering catching practice to the slip cordon. Graeme Smith had fallen minutes earlier, falling over and being trapped plumb in front, as South Africa tottered at 53 for 3.
Powell and Taylor bowled at considerable pace, and while the accuracy wavered occasionally - both, along with Fidel Edwards, leaked runs with leg-stump half-volleys - they made up for the lapses with enough wicket-taking deliveries. Powell bowled just three overs in his first spell, but struck with his first ball of the second, as Hashim Amla, who made a fluent 29, played too early at a full delivery and lost his stumps. When Ashwell Prince nibbled at one outside off, South Africa were reeling at 96 for 5. Mark Boucher got a snorter first up which hit his gloves but, luckily for him, went to ground, as he, along with AB de Villiers, survived without further mishaps.
If the last session belonged to the fast bowlers, the first two were entirely Chanderpaul's. Beginning the day on 43, he batted like he had on the opening day, showing excellent shot selection, judgment, and huge amounts of patience. The key to his batting was his ability to leave deliveries which weren't directed at the stumps. Time after time he shouldered arms to the fast bowlers, forcing them to bowl at the stumps. When they did, he shuffled across in his characteristic manner, and either worked it away to leg, or showed his range square on the off side.
He found excellent support from Darren Sammy, who came in after Makhaya Ntini had nailed two quick blows in the morning. Sammy took little time to settle in, showing sound technique and the confidence to go for his shots. He was especially fluent with strokes square on the off side, cutting and driving off the back foot, often over the fielders.
Chanderpaul, meanwhile, was unshakeable. A powerful pull shot off Dale Steyn took him to his half-century, which he celebrated with successive fours off Steyn's next over - a steer through gully and a spanking cut. Sammy fell to a contentious run-out decision by Rudi Koertzen, the third umpire - replays suggested he might have deserved the benefit of the doubt - after a seventh-wicket stand which fetched 57, but Chanderpaul, then on 71, wasn't done yet. He farmed the strike and was helped along by Jerome Taylor, who lasted 37 balls, to move along to 85.
Powell then stuck around to ensure that Chanderpaul reached his hundred. A pull off Steyn took him to 97, and the century came soon after, with a sweep for three off Paul Harris. Chanderpaul's resistance was finally ended by a superb delivery from Andre Nel, who angled the ball from round the wicket, and then straightened it to beat the outside edge and clip off stump. The end of the innings came three balls later, though not before more drama, as Nel bowled Fidel Edwards off a no-ball, which was called by a vigilant Aleem Dar as South Africa had three fielders behind the wicket on the on side. Edwards' dismissal off the next ball brought one dominant performance to an end, but another was about to begin.
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