Among the seven major test nations, the West Indies’ record in South Africa is without parallel. No other nation comes close to matching the men from the Caribbean for lack of success – often, even, a lack of competition. Just a single victory in 12 attempts on South African shores.
The 1990s was the decade of decline for West Indian cricket. Good enough at the start of it to beat Australia 2-1 both at home and away, it finished with ignominy and humiliation as they suffered the worst result in their proud history – a 5-0 whitewash in South Africa in 1998-99.
The first test at the Wanderers was actually a close contest with just seven runs between the teams on the first innings but Shaun Pollock’s 4-49 helped dismiss the tourists for just 170 second time around and a youthful Jacques Kallis (57*) guided the home side to a four-wicket victory despite the best efforts of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh who shared five wickets.
Threats of demonstrations and even riots before the second test at St George’s Park in protest at the all-white composition of the national team led to UCB chief executive Dr Ali Bacher directing the selectors to include Herschelle Gibbs in the starting XI. The man to make way was Bacher’s own nephew, Adam.
South Africa galloped to victory inside three days with Shaun Pollock (5-43) and Allan Donald (5-49) doing most of the damage as the tourists were bowled out for just 121 and 141, both in less than 40 overs. It led to captain Brian Lara issuing an unreserved apology to both the people of South Africa and the Caribbean for “an embarrassing performance”.
More of the same followed at Kingsmead where Jonty Rhodes (87) helped build another lead of 100+ before Pollock’s 5-83 ensured a nine-wicket victory – despite a half-century in both innings from Lara.
Kallis produced one of his most compelling performances at Newlands just failing to become the only player in test history to score two hundreds and claim a five-wicket haul. Having made 110 in the first innings Kallis was given an hour after lunch to move from the 70s to another century but crawled slowly to 88 not out when captain Hansie Cronje put the team’s interests first and declared in pursuit of victory.
With an injured Donald unable to bowl in the second innings, it was Kallis who shared the new ball with Pollock and the tourists were wrecked by the close of play on day four at 93-6. Kallis finished with a career best 5-90 to seal victory by 149 runs.
To suggest that Lara’s team were playing for pride in the fifth test at Centurion would be to suggest there was any pride left. But Walsh did his best with 6-80 only for Mark Boucher to score 100 at number eight to post a first innings of 313. There were only two scores in double figures when the West Indies replied with 144 – Lara’s 68 and Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s 38. Donald took 5-49. Again.
The collective Caribbean spirit had been crushed although Gary Kirsten made absolutely certain of it with a gruelling 134 from 305 balls in the second innings. Rhodes was like a cat with its first mouse, smashing 103 from only 95 balls to equal the SA record for the fastest test century. The West Indies target was 569, another humiliation in itself. Instead of the pacemen, it was Paul Adams who finished them off for the final time claiming 4-64 for a 351-run victory.
Graeme Smith (132) and Kallis (158) contributed most to a monster total of 561 at the Wanderers but it was Lara’s double century on the third day which provided most relief and pleasure. Finally! But even so, the tourists were still 150 behind, a deficit quickly turned into a target of 378. It was far too many – Pollock (4-31) and Makhaya Ntini (4-53) completed the 189-run win.
There were three hundreds for the home side in the second test at Kingsmead with Gibbs (142), Kallis (177) and Kirsten (137) combining for an even more intimidating 658-9. Despite second-innings centuries from Ramnaresh Sarwan (114) and Chanderpaul (109), the tourists were still overwhelmed by an innings and 65 runs.
In the context of everything which preceded it, the New Year draw at Newlands could be regarded as a West Indian triumph. The runs flowed again for South Africa with centuries for Jacques Rudolph (101) and Boucher (122*) in a total of 532 but Chris Gayle (116) and Lara (115) responded in kind with a total of 427.
Gibbs (142) and Kallis (130*) increased the lead to 440 but Lara (86) and Dwayne Smith (105) counter-attacked in thrilling style to reach 354-5 when stumps were drawn.
Runs flowed freely once again in the fourth test at Centurion with Smith (139) and Gibbs (192) sharing an opening stand of 301 and Kallis (130*) completing a record aggregate (712) for the series in a total of 604-6. Ntini’s 5-49 helped enforce the follow-on and a 10-wicket victory duly ensued.
The solitary Caribbean success on SA soil was much celebrated and cherished at St George’s Park where veteran Chanderpaul ground out 104 and Marlon Samuels made 94 in a total of 408 before Dwayne Bravo claimed 4-24 as an out-of-sorts Proteas side was bundled out for just 195. Despite managing just 175 second time around, the lead was too substantial and Gayle was able to lead the partying for a famous win by 128 runs.
Dale Steyn (4-60) dismantled the first innings at Newlands but, for once, the home side didn’t have things all their own way with the bat as 243 played 321. Chanderpaul (70*) bravely held the second innings together and there was a real sense that South Africa might falter in pursuit of 185 for victory on a wearing pitch. But Smith hammered 85 from just 79 balls during one of his many, epic run-chase innings.
The third test was as one-sided as any between the teams with SA prevailing by an innings and 100 runs. Having dismissed the tourists for just 139 at Kingsmead on the back of Pollock’s 4-35, Smith (147), Ashwell Prince (123*) and AB de Villiers (103*) created intolerable pressure with a total of 556-4 declared. Steyn completed the rout with 6-72.
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