Tests: South Africa 5 West Indies 0, ODIs: South Africa 6 West Indies 1

The West Indies in South Africa, 1998-99

Even though they had been defeated 3-0 in Pakistan a year earlier, the notion that West Indies would suffer a 5-0 series whitewash on their first Test tour of South Africa was inconceivable. On paper, there was little between the two sides. How, then, did the unthinkable come to pass? How did West Indies lose every match in a five-Test series for the first time in their long and distinguished history? It had happened only six times before in Test cricket and, on each of the last three occasions, it was West Indies who had done the humbling.

The pay dispute with the West Indies Board, which culminated in crisis talks in London, unsettled the team before the tour even began. Only half the West Indies party arrived in South Africa at the scheduled start of the tour. The rest, including captain Brian Lara and vice-captain Carl Hooper, stayed in London after the Mini World Cup in Bangladesh. The remainder of the squad then flew into Heathrow from South Africa to present a united front to the Board, who initially sacked Lara and Hooper, then sought reconciliation. How united that front really was is open to question: the junior players found themselves dragged into a dispute in which the seniors were largely seeking a pay increase for themselves. Certainly, there was a divided air about the West Indies party for much of the tour. Lara admitted after the Fifth Test that "we are not together as a team". That appeared an understatement, and, for that lack of unity, Lara had to bear some responsibility. His public criticism of two of his bowlers, Nixon McLean and Mervyn Dillon, after the Second Test capitulation, seemed to sap their confidence, and neither bowled consistently all tour. Lara failed to get the best not only from them but also several other unproven Test players.


Teams winning a five-match Test series 5 - 0

Australia 5, England 0in Australia 1920-21
Australia 5, South Africa 0in Australia 1931-32
England 5, India 0in England 1959
West Indies 5, India 0in the West Indies 1961-62
England 0, West Indies 5in England 1984
West Indies 5, England 0in the West Indies 1985-86
South Africa 5, West Indies 0in the South Africa 1998-99

Lara himself continued to underachieve with the bat, extending his sequence of matches without a Test hundred to 14. There were glimpses of his old genius, but he got himself out all too regularly. The same could be said for Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose dearth of runs critically undermined the West Indian cause. The three middle-order heavyweights generally failed to apply themselves after they were exposed to the new ball in almost every innings. The opening pairings - five combinations were tried - were feeble, showing even less application than the strokeplayers. While Jonty Rhodes excelled at No. 6 for South Africa, that position remained highly problematic for the visitors throughout. Jimmy Adams, who would have filled it, was badly missed, having to return home after suffering a mysterious hand injury - reportedly caused by a butterknife - on the flight to Johannesburg. Not long after him, West Indies' best spinner, Dinanath Ramnarine, was also ruled out of the tour, and his replacement, Rawl Lewis, made no impression.

The batting of the respective lower orders was another key difference. Ridley Jacobs, whose form after making his debut in the First Test was the main plus of the tour for West Indies, outscored Shaun Pollock at No. 7, but only in the second innings of the Fourth Test did their tail offer protracted resistance. Conversely, only once did the with South African lower order fail to make a nuisance of themselves, and the contributions with the bat of Pat Symcox and Allan Donald in the first two Tests helped win both matches. Mark Boucher's hundred in the Fifth Test also heavily influenced the result. Even David Terbrugge, a genuine tailender, played his part by not being dismissed once in the series.

The most noticeable difference between the sides, however, was the quality of fielding. The run-out count was only 5-4 in South Africa's favour, but the general level of out-cricket did not bear comparison. Rhodes saved a multitude of runs square of the wicket, and his brilliance was matched by Herschelle Gibbs, who held two breath-taking catches to turn the Third Test. Boucher, meanwhile, became the first wicket-keeper to negotiate a five-Test series without conceding a bye. The rest of the South African team all maintained an impressively high standard. Hansie Cronje effecting three run-outs, while Daryll Cullinan and Jacques Kallis caught notably well in the slips. So too did Hooper, but his excellence contrasted with generally sloppy outfielding.

The South African seamers bowled extraordinarily well, however much they were helped by West Indian indiscipline. Pollock was the pick, embracing a high level of consistency throughout. Donald generated extreme pace at times (it was the first time for many years that West Indies found themselves outspeeded) and he clearly unsettled batsmen. He reserved some of his best deliveries for Lara, whom he dismissed five times out of the eight that he bowled to him in the series. Terbrugge, tall and medium-fast, preyed skilfully on West Indian frustration by maintaining a tight line and length. And Jacques Kallis, whose 485 runs and 17 wickets confirmed him as one of the world's leading all-rounders, had a major bearing.

The one-day series was equally one-sided. Only in the first two games were West Indies competitive and, when injury ruled Lara out for three matches, the batting was hopelessly over-reliant on Chanderpaul and Hooper. An unhappy tour could not end soon enough for a side by now devoid of confidence and spirit.

The South Africans, by contrast, could not have presented a more united, committed, aggressive or motivated front. While the West Indians had been bickering over pay at Heathrow, Cronje and his side were meticulously preparing for the series at a camp in Bloemfontein, making particularly good use of technological and video aids. Clive Lloyd, West Indies's tour manager, confessed that his team's organisation was a long way behind in this respect.


B. C. Lara (Trinidad & Tobago) (captain), C. L. Hooper (Guyana) (vice-captain), J. C. Adams (Jamaica), C. E. L. Ambrose (Leeward Islands), S. Chanderpaul (Guyana), M. Dillon (Trinidad & Tobago), D. Ganga (Trinidad & Tobago), R. D. Jacobs (Leeward Islands), C. B. Lambert (Guyana), N. A. M. McLean (Windward Islands), J. R. Murray (Windward Islands), D. Ramnarine (Trinidad & Tobago), F. A. Rose (Jamaica), P. A. Wallace (Barbados), C. A. Walsh (Jamaica), S. C. Williams (Leeward Islands).

F. L. Reifer (Barbados, R. N. Lewis (Windward Islands) and O. D. Gibson (Barbados) replaced Adams, Ramnarine and Rose who returned home injured.

The squad for the one-day series was reinforced by K. L. T. Arthurton (Leeward Islands), R. D. King (Guyana), N. C. McGarrell (Guyana) and K. F. Semple (Guyana), while Dillon, Gibson, Lambert, Walsh and Williams returned home.

Manager: C. H. Lloyd. Coach: M. D. Marshall.

Match reports for

1st Test: South Africa v West Indies at Johannesburg, Nov 26-30, 1998
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: South Africa v West Indies at Gqeberha, Dec 10-12, 1998
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3rd Test: South Africa v West Indies at Durban, Dec 26-29, 1998
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4th Test: South Africa v West Indies at Cape Town, Jan 2-6, 1999
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5th Test: South Africa v West Indies at Centurion, Jan 15-18, 1999
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1st ODI: South Africa v West Indies at Johannesburg, Jan 22, 1999
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2nd ODI: South Africa v West Indies at East London, Jan 24, 1999
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3rd ODI: South Africa v West Indies at Durban, Jan 27, 1999
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4th ODI: South Africa v West Indies at Gqeberha, Jan 30, 1999
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5th ODI: South Africa v West Indies at Cape Town, Feb 2, 1999
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6th ODI: South Africa v West Indies at Bloemfontein, Feb 5, 1999
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7th ODI: South Africa v West Indies at Centurion, Feb 7, 1999
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© John Wisden & Co