West Indies collapse gives South Africa hope
After being outclassed through most of the first three days of the Test, South Africa fought back superbly in the field to give themselves a chance - a slim one, admittedly - of pulling off an incredible victory. They seemed to have fallen behind irretrievably after being bundled out for 195 to concede a first-innings lead of 213, but the bowlers struck repeatedly in the last 45 minutes of the day to reduce West Indies to 146 for 8, an overall lead of 359.
There was little sign of the collapse through the first six hours of the day, as West Indies turned in another mature performance with both bat and ball. Dwayne Bravo was outstanding with the ball, seaming it around at brisk pace to take the last four South African wickets and finish with superb figures of 4 for 24.
West Indies then started their second innings like they had the first, with Chris Gayle smacking boundaries all around the park, carting the hapless Dale Steyn for a six and three fours in his third over. Though he fell soon after for a 22-ball 29, Daren Ganga and Marlon Samuels were so assured in their 65-run third-wicket stand that all talk veered inevitably towards when West Indies might plan a declaration, and what target they would feel safe with. The South African bowlers steamed in, especially Steyn and Andre Nel, but Ganga, displaying a watertight defensive technique, and Samuels, continuing from where he had left off in the first innings, hardly gave the South Africans a sniff.
Then, Ganga played Harris square on the off side, took off for a single after some hesitation, and was beaten by a direct hit from Herschelle Gibbs. In the next over, Samuels bottom-edged a pull off Steyn on to his stumps - West Indies suddenly had two new batsmen at the crease, and South Africa, sensing an opportunity, went for the jugular.
Steyn hadn't had a match to remember, but he charged in, got plenty of pace and bounce, and soon had some successes to celebrate as well. The most important scalp was that of Shivnarine Chanderpaul - his run of successive fifties was finally broken as Steyn got one to angle away and take the edge on the way to second slip. He struck again off his last over of the day with a vicious lifter that climbed on Denesh Ramdin and took his glove. From the other end, Paul Harris did his bit too, inducing a miscue from Bravo, which spoilt what was otherwise a good day for him, and trapping Darren Sammy in front with one that spun viciously. West Indies had lost their last six wickets for 22 runs in less than ten overs, as South Africa finished the day sensing they might just have given themselves the opportunity to sneak an unlikely victory.
That possibility seemed almost out of the question through most of the day. Resuming at 122 for 5, South Africa needed the partnership between AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher - the last recognised batting pair - to flourish, but Boucher perished to an injudicious pull in the third over, and though de Villiers and Harris resisted with a dogged 43-run stand, neither could keep Bravo at bay.
de Villiers did his best to reduce the deficit, though. He was easily the best batsman among the South Africans, driving crisply when offered the width, and cutting and pulling with equal felicity. The shot selection was excellent, as was the defensive technique. The three West Indian fast bowlers had a less-than-impressive day, and de Villiers cashed in, punishing both Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor on the way to a 102-ball half-century, his 12th Test fifty.
South Africa were chugging along fairly comfortably, but Bravo's introduction into the attack brought about a dramatic transformation. Working up a fair amount of pace - he consistently topped 130 kph - and also keeping excellent control over line and length, he first checked the runs, conceding just four in his first four overs of the day, and the wickets followed. de Villiers perished in his fifth, clueless against one that straightened after pitching, beat the edge and sent off stump cartwheeling. Harris' stodgy innings ended soon after, and returning after the lunch break, Bravo needed just seven more deliveries to dismiss the last two and wrap up the South African innings. His figures for the day read a fantastic 8.1-2-14-4, and they didn't flatter his performance. West Indies' batting later in the day meant, though, that his display might yet not be the defining performance of the match.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo