West Indies Break Losing Spell

A win, a win at last!

And not just an ordinary win but one against opponents presently rated second only to Australia, a win hard-fought and comprehensive, a win achieved through a team effort in which the bit players contributed even more than the established stars.

By defeating South Africa by 130 runs in the fifth and final Test at Sabina Park yesterday, after the collapse of the last six wickets for 46 in 15 overs after lunch, the West Indies ended a sequence of 13 Tests and almost a year without a victory.

In contrast, it was South Africa's first loss in the same number of Tests.

For the West Indies, there have been ten losses and a distressing litany of chaos and controversy in that time. It makes a refreshing change to be able to report something positive.

It could not save a series already secured by South Africa through victories at Queen's Park Oval and the ARG, and it was Shaun Pollock, not Carl Hooper, who stepped forward to collect the impressive new Viv Richards Trophy at the end. But there was justified satisfaction for Hooper's first win as captain and for his players.

The result was an appropriate parting gift for the great Courtney Walsh who ended his celebrated career as he began it 17 years and 132 Tests earlier against Australia at Perth, with a West Indies triumph.

Inevitably, he was in the thick of things at the end, claiming two of the last three wickets with the second new ball to the delight of the small Sabina Park crowd that, only a year ago, was hailing him as he surpassed Kapil Dev as Test cricket's leading wicket-taker.

Now he waved them goodbye for the last time from the middle and left the field to heartfelt hugs from West Indians and South Africans alike.

As significantly, the win was a boost for the collective confidence of the generation to follow.

They will depart for their next Test series, in Zimbabwe in July, unquestionably weakened by the loss of Test cricket's highest wickettaker who was, once more, their most successful bowler in the series.

But they are now assured they have the capacity to compete with the best, a status not evident after their thrashings in England last summer and in Australia subsequently.

For a long time yesterday it seemed as if the self-doubt that is the upshot of failure was again hindering the West Indies.

It had often affected them during the series and, as Walsh and Merv Dillon trundled away ineffectively to mainly defensive field placings, South Africa's overnight pair Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis solidly settled.

Cameron Cuffy had a bowl but did nothing to compensate for his earlier clumsy fielding. Dinanath Ramnarine took over from Dillon and, after four overs, Hooper replaced Cuffy.

The closest the West Indies came to separating the pair was on an lbw appeal from Hooper against Kallis an hour and ten minutes into the day.

Lunch was 20 minutes away when the breakthrough finally came. McKenzie, never entirely sure against Ramnarine, prodded forward to the leg-break, failed to cover it sufficently and Leon Garrick snapped up the catch inches from the ground at silly point.

McKenzie had defied the West Indies for four hours, 20 minutes for his 51, yet South Africa still seemed on course for safety at 209 for four at lunch, with Kallis entrenched with 51.

Ramnarine changed that within four balls of resumption.

Kallis, as always, had been keen to get after him before lunch, three times stepping down to lift him to the extra-cover boundary.

Second ball into the second session, he was again on the attack, pulling. The ball was too close to him for the shot and he chopped it into off-stump off the inside-edge, and the main stumbling block was gone.

Two balls later, Mark Boucher, who has had a miserable tour with bat and gloves, reached forward to a leg-break and snicked to wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs.

These were match-winning blows and South Africa's resistance crumbled.

Once Lance Klusener and Pollock batted together for half-hour after Ramnarine's double-strike, Hooper handed Walsh and Dillon the second new ball three-quarters of an hour into the final session.

The outcome was still not certain, for the left-handed Klusener was beginning to find the middle of the bat for the first time in the series with blows for which he is renowned and Pollock's batting credentials were obvious in a series average of over 100.

This time, Pollock had nothing left. Dillon removed him to a catch to Jacobs off a wild cut shot with his second delivery and, to universal delight, Walsh claimed Justin Kemp first ball to a clear-cut lbw decision.

Next ball, Walsh's fellow Jamaican Marlon Samuels, 18 years his junior, embarrassed himself and his former watching classmates at Kingston College, by dropping Allan Donald at cover.

It prolonged Walsh's next wicket for a few minutes before he knocked out Donald's middle stump, his 519th and, as it turned out, last Test victim.

It would have been fitting for Walsh to formalise the victory with a wicket with his last ball in Test cricket. But West Indian sentimentality did not extend that far. They have had enough disappointments of late to care only about finishing off the match.

It came 50 minutes before tea when last man Paul Adams skied a catch off Dillon that Samuels, pedalling back from cover, this time caught.

Then, and only then, could the celebrations begin.