The West Indies missed a golden opportunity to roll over the South Africans for under 200 in their first innings as South Africa - and captain Shaun Pollock and Nicky Boje in particular - fought their way back into the fourth Test to close day one on 210-7 at the Antigua Recreation Ground on Friday.
Pollock - undefeated 36Photo CricInfo
Pollock (36) and Boje (28) underlined the the strength in depth of the South African batting line-up with an partnership now worth 62 for the eighth wicket. They came together as South Africa stumbled to 148-7, the visitors reeling at the hands off debutant left-arm spinner Neil McGarrell.
The 28 year-old McGarrell finished with accomplished debut figures of 4-57 and bowled with patient control throughout. His performance looked for much of the day to have vindicated the West Indies' decision to go into a test match with two frontline spinners for the first time in 25 years. Once again, though, the home side let themselves down in the field.
Two schoolboy chances went to ground, the first by Wavell Hinds at short-leg off a bat-pad chance offered by Daryll Cullinan not proving too expensive as the right-hander fell for the fifth time in seven innings in this series to the leg-spin of Dinanath Ramnarine after making just four.
The second could prove to be more costly and for the second time in the series it was an embarrassing miss by Brian Lara, this time at first slip as Boje drove loosely at Courtney Walsh. Boje was 24 and South Africa 197-7 for time - we will know tomorrow just how expensive Lara's miss will prove to be. It put a dampener to what under normal circumstance would be considered a good day for the West Indies - for any side, indeed. A good start to day two will help ease the sense of having let one get away too.
Three wickets fell before lunch, which South Africa reached on 53-3. Gary Kirsten avoided a third duck in succession but soon after a patient start drove McGarrell straight to mid-on. Jacques Kallis edged a loose shot away from his body onto his stumpes to be bowled by Dillon and Cullinan edged a perfect leg-spinner from Ramnarine to first slip.
Boje - undefeated 28Photo CricInfo
Immediately after lunch, Herschelle Gibbs and Neil McKenzie swung the balance back in South Africa's favour with a rollicking stand of 67 for the fourth wicket, the partnership packed with a flurry of boundaries as both batsmen looked to take the attack to the West Indies spinners.
It came to an end when McKenzie was adjudged caught behind off McGarrell for 35 to his clear displeasure - he made no secret of his belief that the ball had flicked his pad rather than the bat. McKenzie's departure was the signal for a middle order collapse, Lance Kluserner leg-before to McGarrell for a duck, and Mark Boucher slapping the same bowler straight to midwicket to go for just one.
Gibbs (85) looked in superb touch for the better part of four hours, never afraid to use his feet to the spinners and on one occassion carting Dillon for a magnificent six over midwicket. He had struck 12 fours and one further six when he aimed a sweep at Carl Hooper, gloved the ball onto the chest of Ridley Jacobs and saw the 'keeper take fine catch on the rebound. South Africa had slumped from 120-3 to 148-7.
Enter Pollock and Boje.