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West Indies in complete command
27 Dec 2007
By: Richard Dickinson

West Indies assumed a commanding position on the second day of the First Test in South Africa, the sort of position they have not been in for a long time in a Test. After posting a healthy 408, on the back of yet another serene innings from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Daren Powell and Jerome Taylor showed rare firepower to reduce the home side to 96 for 5. They closed on 122 for 5, needing another 87 to avoid the follow-on and knowing their last two batsmen of any repute are at the crease.

Powell had dismissed Herschelle Gibbs for a duck in his opening over, getting one to swing away late and take the outside-edge to Denesh Ramdin. This initial breakthrough for a time looked like being a blip on South Africa's radar, as Powell and Fidel Edwards drifted onto Graeme Smith's pads, and Taylor onto Hashim Amla's. However, Taylor came back well from a first over that cost 11, drawing Smith into an edge past second-slip with a straight ball, then trapping him - in fashion that has become depressingly familiar for the South African captain - with a deep inswinger.

In his next over Taylor struck gold, as Jacques Kallis (for the first time since Bourda in early 2005) fell for a duck. He elected to play at a ball outside off, thought better of it, but failed to withdraw his bat in time, and by the time he had raised it above his head the ball had already hit the edge and flown to Dwayne Bravo's right at third-slip. The Trinidadian all-rounder, who has already taken several sensational catches in his career, flung himself to the ground and clung-on with both hands. Powell was brought back and hurled a magnificent outswinging yorker into Hashim Amla's stumps. At 63 for 4 the home side were reeling.

Ashwell Prince ground his way to 20, and AB de Villiers, averaging just 28 in his last 15 Tests, was even slower, except when he was taking 12 from a tiring Taylor's 7th over of his spell. Powell himself kept running in, and was rewarded once again when Prince attempted to flash a wide length delivery through the covers. The bowler got the ball to move away from the left-hander, even in the 26th over, and Runako Morton took a simple catch in the slips.

Mark Boucher counter-attacked aggressively, drawing words from Powell when he missed an attempted pull as the close approached. Alongside the watchful de Villiers - 10 from 56 balls that over from Taylor aside - he took his side to the close without further mishap, but they know they have it all to do to stay in the game from here on in.

West Indies had enjoyed the better of the opening day, but South Africa knew early wickets could put the cat amongst the pigeons. And indeed Makhaya Ntini delivered two blows, removing Bravo and Ramdin within the space of a couple of overs. Bravo top-edged an appalling swipe, but could easily have got away with it as Ntini and Gibbs, walking in from gully, both positioned themselves under the ball. Fortunately, Ntini managed to hold the catch and neither player was injured, but Gibbs was decidedly fortunate that he received no more than a knock to the floor. There was no such doubt about the wicketkeeper's dismissal, Ntini producing a magnificent delivery which seamed away, grazed the edge and gave another simple victim for Boucher.

Darren Sammy, not considered a certainty to play in this Test beforehand despite taking 8 for 98 in his only previous Test, now showed his value with the bat. With Chanderpaul as solid as ever, Sammy mixed blocking with meaty blows, particularly exasperating Andre Nel whose luck remained out. Chanderpaul and Sammy added an invaluable 57, before the St.Lucian all-rounder was controversially run out in the second session by de Villiers. Chanderpaul pushed one into the off, both batsmen took straight off but de Villiers did a passable impression of Jonty Rhodes as he hared in, grabbed the ball and underarmed it into the stumps. After any number of replays, third-Umpire Rudi Koertzen ruled the batsman out, despite the fact that only half of the bail appeared to be removed from the groove before Sammy gained his ground.

Chanderpaul remained unperturbed, and Taylor proved exceedingly difficult to shift. The South African seamers peppered him with short deliveries, and Paul Harris had several lbw shouts, none of which could have been terribly far away. In the end, though, it took a convincing outswinging yorker from Dale Steyn - below-par for most of the innings - for the South Africans to get their man. The ball would have dismissed many better right-handers, as it curved away late and might well have beaten the bat of the Jamaican seamer had it been twice the width.

Still, Chanderpaul soldiered on, farming the strike as Powell took to the crease. Finally, he completed a superb century with a top-edged sweep for three off Harris. The innings had taken 244 deliveries, but rarely had he looked in trouble and never had he given a hint of a chance. Nel finally dismissed him with a magnificent away-swinger - it was always going to take something fairly remarkable - that jagged away late, beat the outside-edge and clipped the off-stump. Nel should have had Edwards' wicket 2 balls later, but as he bowled him with a fast full-toss Hashim Amla had unforgivably strayed behind square, meaning the bowler had 3 fielders behind square on the leg. Fortunately the reprieve cost neither team nor bowler anything other than a couple of extra deliveries, as Edwards cut to Prince at point later that over.

Still, South Africa will have felt they allowed the tourists to get far too many after inserting them, a feeling likely to have been exacerbated as the West Indians made better use of the considerable swing available to make their inroads. There is a long way to go yet in this match, but West Indies have given themselves a real chance of their first Test victory in 2-and-a-half years since beating Pakistan at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown. What's more, it would be their first overseas victory over genuinely credible Test opposition since July 2001 when they comfortably beat a Zimbabwe side which bears little resemblance to the current rabble. Not to mention their first victory in a Test in South Africa, where their record before this game read: played 9, lost 8 (plus a single draw salvaged only by the debut century of Dwayne Smith).

West Indies 408
Chris Gayle 66, Marlon Samuels 94, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 104

South Africa 122 for 5
Daren Powell 3-40, Jerome Taylor 2-28

South Africa trail by 286 runs with 5 first-innings wickets remaining

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