Shaun Pollock and Alan Donald, the two South African bowlers they must fear most over the next few days, virtually put the Third Test out of the West Indies' reach with the bat on the second day at Kensington Oval yesterday.
In an exasperating ninth-wicket partnership of 132, they exposed the limitations of the West Indies bowling on a typically placid Kensington second day pitch and benefitted from slack fielding.
They took South Africa from a moderate 315 for eight quarter-hour after lunch to a commanding 454 all out just before close, leaving the West Indies three challenging days ahead.
Captain Pollock and Donald obliged Carl Hooper to call on eight bowlers before the persevering veteran Courtney Walsh, bowling more overs than he has ever done in his 130 Tests, finally removed Donald to a catch to second slip after almost three-and-a-half hours of sheer frustration.
Walsh sent down 45 overs for his three wickets, a measure of the dependence the West Indies still place on him in his farewell series. It is a disturbing statistic.
Their first job over, Pollock and Donald returned to open the bowling for the four overs available to the West Indian openers in the soft evening sunlight but the left-handers Wavell Hinds and Chris Gayle survived the examination to resume seven without loss this morning.
The stage is set for them and the other West Indian batsmen, more especially Brian Lara and and Hooper, to respond positively.
In his only previous Test at Kensington, Hinds took 165 and 52 off Pakistan and, memorably, Lara's match-winning, unbeaten 153 against Australia two years ago was on this ground.
It may be clutching at straws but it is worth recalling that Australia amassed 490 then - and still lost.
Pollock was 8 when Donald joined him and he seemed likely to yet again suffer from his low position in the order, as he had done in his previous three innings in the series when he was not out 17 and 15 and last man out 8.
He took charge from the time Donald joined him following the fall of three wickets for nine runs on either side of the first interval.
He shielded his less accomplished partner until he was assured he could cope on his own, the two gradually frustrating the eleven West Indians on the ground and the thousands more waving their multinational flags with decreasing hope in the stand.
Pollock, who hit 13 fours in just over four hours, had one chance, to the sprawling Gayle at slip off the persevering Walsh. It was the fourth put down by the West Indies for the innings, a telling figure.
Pollock, whose batting credentials are evident in a Test average of 28, completed his second Test hundred to add to his first against Sri Lanka in South Africa in January four Tests ago.
Only ten times in Test cricket has a No. 9 passed three-figures and Pollock has now done it twice. He is unlikely to do it again for he is surely batting a couple of places above his station, even in his long batting line-up.
Playing with straight-batted certainty and striking the ball hard whenever he chose to, Pollock was unbeaten on 106 when last man Makhaya Ntini drove a low return catch to leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine to be last out.
Donald defied the listless West Indians with growing assurance for nearly three-and-a-half hours for 37, his highest Test score in his 68 Tests.
He is not in Pollock's class as a batsman but one square-cut off Walsh and a couple of deliberate upper-cuts that earned him his three boundaries belied his No.10 position.
When Donald joined his captain, the West Indies had regained parity with two wickets before the interval and one afterwards at the cost of nine runs.
Daryll Cullinan, 109 at the start, survived a straighforward catch to Brian Lara at deep midwicket at 122 that left the Kensington Stand behind aghast with apprehension of the price that would have to be paid for the error.
As it turned out, it was not costly. Cullinan and his misnomered nightwatchman, the left-handed Nicky Boje, batted through the first hour-and three-quarter without bother, carrying their overnight partnership to 72 when Merv Dillon removed both in the quarter-hour before lunch.
He grabbed a superb, low return catch on follow-through to dismiss Cullinan for 134 and followed by inducing a hard-hit drive to cover from Boje the last ball to lunch.
When Walsh plucked out left-hander Lance Klusener's middle-stump on resumption, three wickets had gone for nine and the contest was evenly balanced.
Over the next three-and-a-half hours, Pollock and Donald shifted it decisively towards South Africa.