South Africa kept their hopes alive of forcing an outright victory in spite of the adverse weather conditions when they initiated a West Indies middle and lower-order collapse that saw seven wickets fall for 44 runs off 83 balls on the fourth day of the second Test match at St. George’s Park on Monday. At the close of another shortened day during which only 35 overs could be bowled the Windies were tottering on 275/9 for a first innings deficit of 142 runs. There are only 98 overs left in the match, weather permitting, but there is still a chance of the Proteas piling on the runs before lunch and then leaving themselves with two sessions to take 10 wickets.
It would be a tall order but the South Africans have always backed themselves to overcome such obstacles. At one stage it looked as though the Caribbean cricketers might even lead on the first innings as Kraigg Brathwaite and Marlon Samuels both scored centuries and shared a West Indian third wicket record against the Proteas of 176 that improved on the previous best of 160 by Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul at Kingsmead in 1998. It was Brathwaite’s third Test century (106 off 186 balls, 12 fours) and Samuels’ sixth (101 off 160 balls, 14 fours and a six). It was a tail of two contrasting innings as Brathwaite played a traditional opening batsman’s knock while Samuels, who struggled against the short-pitched attack of the South African seamers, launched a successful attack on the spin of Imran Tahir for most of his boundaries.
Morne Morkel was unquestionably the star of the South African attack. None of the batsmen looked comfortable against his sustained aggression and accuracy. He started the day with a yorker that Samuels did well to dig out and he never looked back on his way to figures of 4/69 in 20 overs. Once Vernon Philander and Morkel had got rid of the two centurions Tahir swept through the lower order as he has done so often in the past.
His victims included the key wicket of Chanderpaul to finish with 3/108 in 26 overs. The adverse weather hasn’t just cost the hosts valuable time; it also made it almost impossible with a wet ball and outfield for them to get reverse swing that has proved to be so important for them at this venue in the past.