South Africa are on the home strait to victory in the Third Digicel Test. The West Indian fortress that was Kensington Oval had long been breached; these days visiting teams look forward to playing Test matches at the venue with anticipation, rather than apprehension.
South Africa are the latest international team to have enjoyed the generosities of their gracious Caribbean hosts. After misfiring to 231 all out in the first innings, the hosts – perhaps stung by their inept batting – fared better in the field and did not allow South Africa to dominate.
They contained the Proteas to 346 all out but faced a deficit of 115. In their second turn at bat, the Windies imploded and are teetering at 134 for 7, with a mere 19 run lead, with the only form of resistance coming from their long time batting stalwart,, who remained not out at the end of day three on 57. His was an innings that lasted for four and a half hours in the second half of the day.
It was only after six wickets had fallen that Chanderpaul received any kind of meaningful support in the person of Shane Shillingford, batting at number eight. The pair put on 53 runs to move the score from 75 for 6 to 128 for 7 when Shillingford went lbw to Johan Botha for 25. Importantly, the two stemmed the tide for an hour and forty minutes to force the game into day four when the Windies looked as though they were not averse to losing in three days.
The third day began with South Africa on 285 for 6 and they crawled to 300 as Ashwell Prince – batting as if a student of the more seasoned Chanderpaul – added 23 runs to his overnight 55 to top score with an unbeaten 78.(262ball, 5 fours) . Sulieman Benn picked up two wickets to append to the four he had the day before and secure his second five wicket haul of the series and register 50 Test wickets in his 15 match career. The lanky left arm Barbadian recorded figures of 6 for 81 from 46.4 overs.
The South African innings ended in the first over after lunch but the West Indies seemed intent on bringing a premature end to the game. With the ultra-aggressive approach of Dale Richards, his namesake Dale Steyn had to have known that it was only a matter of time before an opportunity came begging.
In the fifth over, Richards – when he was on 17 which included four boundaries – lost control of a hook shot to a short ball and was caught by Alviro Petersen running back to square leg. The very next ball Narsingh Deonarine – the incoming batsman – smashed the ball to short cover, a fielder placed specifically in that position for the shot.
From 27 for 2 the Windies slipped further to 36 for 3. On this occasion, Steyn had to produce a ripping delivery to dislodge captain, Chris Gayle (10), who could not drop his hand quickly enough to avoid the ball touching it before going through to wicketkeeper, Mark Boucher. Steyn bowled with imperious speed and unsettled the batsmen and has so far taken three wickets for 31 runs from nine overs to match Johan Botha’s 3 for 34 from 18 miserly overs.
Brendan Nash (12) then stuck around with Chanderpaul until tea but, in the first over after the interval,Nash virtually steered a Botha delivery to the unerring hands of Jacques Kallis at slip. Dwayne Bravo (2) was next as he was squared up by a sharply turning delivery from Paul Harris (16-3-34-1) which rolled off his bat and onto the stumps.
Botha returned to benefit from Denesh Ramdin’s (1) injudicious decision to cut at a ball which he only managed to edge to Boucher. The score was then 75 for 6 and preparations for the end of match presentation began to be hastily put together but Shillingford and Chanderpaul put them on pause as they stayed together for 99 minutes and 148 deliveries.
Chanderpaul, in his usual meticulous fashion, went about constructing his innings and reached his 54 half century in Test cricket from 136 deliveries strikingk six fours during that time. He scored no further boundaries after reaching the landmark, but faced 156 deliveries all told before time was called.
With two full days remaining and only three Windies wickets in hand, the Proteas are likely to achieve victory and earn themselves not only a day and some time off but also take the three Test Digicel Series by a 2-0 margin. Logistics Manager, Goolam Rajah, could even be making early arrangements for his team to return home and enjoy some football World Cup action.