After the opening day of the third Test in Durban it is hard to believe that these two sides were all square heading into the contest. South Africa dominated proceedings from start to finish, removing West Indies for a paltry 139 before Graeme Smith's unbeaten 122 led a thumping reply to put South Africa 74 ahead by the close. Shaun Pollock marked his return to the Test fold after a year away with four wickets and the other scalps were shared around the main quicks.
Following their poor performance in Port Elizabeth South Africa have slowly moved through the gears. It wasn't until the final stages in Cape Town that they pulled away emphatically from West Indies, but here they applied pressure from the first over and never gave the visitors a chance. At times during the final session, as Smith and Hashim Amla picked off an endless supply of dross, West Indies were taking such a pummelling that the kind thing to have done would have been to award South Africa an early knock-out.
Smith and Herschelle Gibbs set off like a train, bringing up South Africa's fifty in the eighth over. For Smith it was a continuation of the way he played during the run chase in Cape Town, where he blasted 85 of 79 balls, but for Gibbs it was more of a cathartic process following his pair in the first Test and subsequent omission. He cracked Fidel Edwards over point for six before, sadly for the crowd and the neutrals, dragging a pull into his stumps.
There was no stopping Smith, who pressed the accelerator again after the tea interval as West Indian shoulders slumped. He frequently bludgeoned fours on both sides of the pitch whenever the bowlers over- or under-pitched. His 19th boundary brought up a 13th Test century off 112 balls and it was one of the more unchallenged he has made. For much of their 160-run stand Amla was a silent partner, but occasionally he burst into life and went to his half-century from 92 deliveries with three fours off Daren Powell's 11th over. He gave a tough chance on 38, to Darren Sammy at second slip, but unsurprisingly it was put down.
Although conditions did flatten out as the pitch settled down the bowling was desperately poor with assistance still on offer. Dwayne Bravo, captaining a Test for the first time, couldn't bowl himself due to injury and there was barely any consistency from the others. Edwards went at more than six-an-over and Jerome Taylor was the best of a poor bunch. They couldn't have produced a more stark contrast to South Africa's display.
It was a triumphant return for Pollock on his home ground after being ignored for the Test side since last January. There is no doubting he has lost pace, but with favourable conditions such as he encountered here he remains one of the best around at extracting movement. This performance may just have bought him the chance to end his Test career on his terms with a tour to England later this year. Regardless of the long-term impact his haul vindicated the decision to field a full hand of quicks and omit Paul Harris on a surface which had been covered leading up to the match and offered liberal early movement.
Pollock wasn't handed the new ball, but Makhaya Ntini's first spell last just two overs before he was summoned into action. Daren Ganga had already been removed, edging a perfect outswinger from Dale Steyn, and it didn't take long for Pollock to cause problems when he trapped Runako Morton with one that nipped back off the pitch. Brenton Parchment, the debutant opener, fell to a Gibbs special as he flew, almost horizontally, to his right at gully to hold a blinding catch. Ntini then returned to the attack and picked off Marlon Samuels who pushed away from his body when tight defence was called for.
West Indies' demise was rapid as Shivnarine Chanderpaul played an uncharacteristically loose shot and provided Kallis with his second catch, Chanderpaul registering his first Test duck since June 2005. Pollock, revelling in the conditions, found some extra bounce against Bravo and Gibbs was again kept busy in the gully. Reaching three figures looked unlikely with half their side gone shortly after the hour mark, however the lower order put bat to ball in effective style and the last five wickets added 106.
After a feisty 25-ball 30, Ramdin offered Gibbs his third, and most comfortable, catch of the innings when he failed to get over a drive off Andre Nel. South Africa's bowlers probably tried too hard for the remaining scalps, forgetting what had brought them early success. Taylor made a career-best 25 before becoming Pollock's fourth wicket courtesy of a stunning catch at long leg by Steyn, who had to run to his left and dive at full length.
Nel was the most culpable in chasing wickets, conceding nearly seven-an-over, but he wrapped up the innings in three balls shortly after lunch. West Indies' spirits were already sagging, four hours later they had hit the lowest point of the tour. There's no obvious way back from a day like this, although England managed it almost exactly three years ago when they themselves were bowled out for 139. It's hard to imagine a repeat performance in this contest, however.