Ramnaresh Sarwan: gave West Indies some hope of saving the game
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Eric Simons, South Africa's coach, admitted that the team had been a little listless on day four in the absence of the great atmosphere that had inspired the players on day three. "You have to give them [West Indies] credit," he added, after Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle had both his centuries to give their team some hope of avoiding a third defeat in the four-Test series.
"At the first break, the captain did say that the team was initially a bit flat, after the great atmosphere created by the people the day before," said Simons. "The virtually empty stadium was very quiet and may have had a part to play in the body language. It did not appear to me to be that way, but they did seem to pick the game up from that point."
Simons refused to accept that the West Indian revival coincided with a dip in performance from his players. "No bowler bowled badly," he said. "They bowled with seam, pace and aggression and a lot of credit must go to the West Indian batsmen. They play with freedom. They will miss one and the next will go to the boundary. They are very unpredictable, but today they batted with a lot of pride. They have taken a lot of flak from the press and other quarters, but today they have to be given the credit for standing up and doing the business."
Much of the day's play was affected by inclement weather, and South Africa's cause wasn't helped by the loss of Andrew Hall. "It did hurt us a bit," said Simons. "He has been diagnosed with a prolapsed disc problem that is expected to keep him out of the game for between four to six weeks. It is much the same as a slipped disc."
He said that Hall's absence limited South Africa's options, but wasn't of the opinion that a slow bowler would have made a difference. "The ball has not turned much during the match and not having Paul Adams in the team has not made a huge difference. Even Rudolph, who can turn it, got no real spin. The West Indians also only used the spinner to rest the main bowlers. We missed Hall a lot more than a spinner."
South Africa's hopes of wrapping up a quick victory on day five will depend on two things - the weather and how they fare with the new ball, which is available at the start of play. "It looks as if the weather will be much the same tomorrow so the first hour with the new ball is very important to us," said Simons. "The overnight rest is a blessing in disguise. We are still in the driving seat and believe that we can bowl them out for a 100 runs."
Simons expressed satisfaction at a job well done by his side over the four Tests. "As a coach, I have really enjoyed this series. To me it has been fascinating," he said. "We always knew it was going to be a series of the batsmen, although I am very pleased with the way our attack has come on. There were certain areas of concern before the series started, but those are being worked out of the system. We have reached a point where there is some light at the end of the tunnel."
He defended the batsmen-friendly pitches, saying that they had enticed people to come and watch more five-day cricket. "It has helped make this a fascinating series without one day of boredom. We have got a good balance and I feel all have been good Test pitches. In the past we have had pitches that become a lottery and we would prefer them to be like they have been for this series. We have seen a lot of runs scored and some bowlers take a lot of wickets. The rewards have been there for both batsmen and bowlers."
On day five, his bowlers - who have done him proud over the past month - will eye one final pot of gold at rainbow's end. Despite the stout resistance from Sarwan and Gayle, it's hard to see them not getting hold of it, assuming the rain stays away.