South Africa overcame the stout resistance of Marlon Samuels, who made his second Test century, to wrap up a comfortable innings-and-100-run victory on the third day at Durban. In doing so, they came from behind to complete a 2-1 series win after their surprise loss in the first Test at Port Elizabeth. On a flat and true surface, it was the raw pace of Dale Steyn that proved the difference on the day. He took 4 for 3 in 19 deliveries with the second new ball to complete his seventh five-wicket haul in 18 Tests, after a fourth-wicket stand of 144 between Samuels and Dwayne Bravo had threatened to carry the match into a fourth day.
Steyn’s success was entirely appropriate on the day that South Africa’s champion seamer, Shaun Pollock, finally handed over the reins after an outstanding 12-year career. Pollock’s final day of Test cricket began with the second-ball wicket of Runako Morton, but thereafter he was comfortably negotiated by a West Indian middle order that put their desperate match situation out of mind, and knuckled down to fight for survival. Thanks to Samuels’s 190-ball innings, and a series-best 75 from the stand-in captain, Bravo, West Indies completed their tour as they had begun it, with pride.
Their prognosis at the start of the day had not been encouraging, however. Their series prospects had been in tatters ever since they were bowled out for 139 on the first morning of the match, and when they shed three wickets in an ill-disciplined first session, there was a fear that the match could be all over by tea, especially seeing as their leading batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, was laid low by ‘flu.
But Samuels and Bravo displayed the maturity that has been an enduring feature of what has to be recorded as an encouraging tour for West Indies. Despite heavy defeats at both Cape Town and now Durban, each match has been marked by the sort of character in adversity that might not previously have been expected of the side. Both men counterattacked gamely as the true nature of the wicket became apparent, and as a lead that had once stood at 417 was whittled down to less than 200, South Africa’s frustrations were laid bare.
Samuels was instrumental in West Indies’ surprise win at Port Elizabeth, where he made twin scores of 94 and 40. This time he went one better, and finally ended a run of five-and-a-half years between Test hundreds. His last three-figure score came against India at Kolkata in October 2002, which explained his undemonstrative celebrations when he drilled Jacques Kallis down the ground for four to end what must have felt like an interminable wait.
Samuels’ innings contained distinct changes of tempo. He began with a flourish during that carefree first session, when West Indies seemed to be in a hurry to administer the last rites themselves. But then he eased back in partnership with Bravo to drive the South Africa bowlers - in particular, Andre Nel - to distraction. He offered a clear chance to Kallis at second slip on 41, as he became entrenched in sight of his half-century, but then celebrated the milestone with a flurry of six fours in nine balls, including two streaky edges over and through the slips off Nel.
Bravo at the other end produced an extremely classy innings. He has endured a disappointing tour as a batsman, with just 47 runs in the first five innings of the series. But he unfurled his full calypso range from the moment he strode to the crease, slamming 11 fours in bringing up his half-century from 67 balls. He offered one tough return chance to Nel’s right on 8, but showed his flair with a series of crunching back-foot drives and a sumptuous clump down the ground off the soon-to-be-retired Pollock.
But, having batted all the way through the afternoon session with scarcely an alarm, the tea break did for Bravo’s concentration. Six balls after the resumption, he played across the line to a Steyn offcutter that wasn’t slipping as far down leg as he had imagined, and was sent on his way for 75. That brought Denesh Ramdin to the crease, and though he produced an attractive 25 from 38 balls, the manner of his departure was disappointing. He wafted flat-footedly at a short wide delivery from Nel, and Boucher took the catch with glee.
At 273 for 5, the end was nigh, but Steyn’s coup de grace was spectacular. He is in the midst of a golden season, and proved it with an unplayable delivery to Samuels that pitched on off, held its line and clattered into the top of the stump. His celebration was wild to the point of over-exuberance, although Samuels was rightly given a fine ovation as he left the field. It had taken the ball of the match to dislodge him.
There was no stopping Steyn now. In his next over, he squared up Darren Sammy with another 90mph legcutter that took the leading edge and flew straight back to the bowler, and three balls later Daren Powell lost his off stump to a similarly tailender-wrecking delivery. Though Jerome Taylor applied a late gloss with three smeared fours off Ntini, Steyn returned to wrap up the match, rattling the stumps once again with a fast, full and straight delivery to Fidel Edwards. On the day that Pollock stepped down from the team, his successor showed just how ready he is to lead the line.
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:Chris Gayle, Dale Steyn, Graeme Smith, Shaun Pollock, South Africa, West Indies, West Indies in South Africa 2007
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