Cape Town: A century by AB de Villiers and two early strikes by the bowlers gave South Africa the edge on the third day of the third and final Test against the West Indies at Newlands on yesterday.
AB de Villiers
De Villiers was last man out for 148 as South Africa were bowled out for 421, a lead of 92. South Africa then dismissed both West Indian openers before Leon Johnson and Marlon Samuels took the tourists to 88 for two at the close, four runs behind. Although the match is fairly evenly poised, De Villiers said he felt South Africa were in a strong position.
"You are never one hundred percent in. There are some cracks in the wicket, a couple keep low and the spinners are always in the game. If we can start really well they will be under big pressure." In a match in which eight other batsmen reached 40 but did not go on beyond 68, De Villiers was the only player to make a substantial score.
"My hundred was definitely hard work," he said. "Maybe from 120 to 148 I felt really comfortable." De Villiers said that although he was confident South Africa could chase down any target with their long batting line-up, he acknowledged: "Anything over 200 could be tough."
Richie Richardson, the West Indies manager and former captain, said it was important for at least two West Indian batsmen to "dig in" on Monday. "South Africa have to bat last. If we have two batsmen who can get centuries we could have a very interesting match. The two guys batting at the moment are looking pretty solid.
We're hoping they can put on a massive partnership tomorrow and then we'll take it from there." De Villiers started the day with an array of attacking strokes but he was forced to change gears when captain Hashim Amla was caught behind and Temba Bavuma followed soon after the second new ball was taken.
He accelerated again either side of lunch as South Africa moved closer and then passed the West Indian total and reached his hundred with his third audacious reverse sweep in an over from off-spinner Samuels which yielded 14 runs. "He is a part-time spinner, you've got to take your chances," he quipped.
21st Test ton
De Villiers' 21st Test century -- and his sixth against the West Indies -- was made off 144 balls with 11 fours. As he ran out of partners, with two men run out, he hit a six off Samuels before being caught at wide long-on attempting to clear the boundary again. His innings lasted for 194 balls and he hit 15 fours and a six.
De Villiers was involved in two significant partnerships, 97 for the fourth wicket with Amla, who made 63, and 96 for the sixth wicket with Stiaan van Zyl (33). As they had in the first innings, West Indian opening batsmen Kraigg Brathwaite and Devon Smith saw off the first spells of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
But the tall Morne Morkel produced a breakthrough in his first over when Smith gloved a legside catch to wicketkeeper De Villiers. Off-spinner Simon Harmer also struck in his first over, bowling Brathwaite with a ball which turned back sharply as the batsman went back on his stumps, reducing the West Indies to 27 for two.
Samuels and Johnson added an unbeaten 61 for the third wicket. Samuels gave a difficult chance when he had 13, clipping Steyn to mid-on where Morkel dived full length to his right but could not hold on. Brathwaite earned a footnote in history when he got off the mark with a seven.
The batsmen ran three and gained four extra runs when De Villiers shied at the stumps at the bowler's end and the ball went to the boundary. According to South African statistician Andrew Samson, this was the first occasion in Test history when a batsman's first runs were a seven.