It took West Indies an hour to get themselves into the first session of the Test series, but after gifting South Africa a brisk start in favourable bowling conditions they struck back in convincing style, led by Kemar Roach, as the home side stumbled to lunch on 102 for 3.
Roach, surprisingly, was not given the new ball and by the time he came into the attack South Africa already had 44 on the board in nine overs. He brought menace and consistency to the attack, started to build up some pressure and was rewarded with Alviro Petersen’s edge which began a run of three wickets for no runs in 15 balls. Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers steadied the innings until lunch and three wickets was really a bare minimum for West Indies in the prevailing conditions.
Play was delayed by half an hour due to early morning rain and the skies remained heavy as Denesh Ramdin and Amla, in his first Test on home soil, emerged for the toss and it was no surprise when Ramdin was quick to insert South Africa. But the West Indies quicks did not get the memo regarding conditions and could not find a consistent line and length in the early exchanges: the first 10 overs brought nine boundries, six to Petersen and three to Dean Elgar.
But Roach then produced nine consecutive dot balls to Petersen and the tenth delivery straightened to draw an outside edge which was pouched at first slip. The message was starting to reach the West Indies bowlers and Cottrell’s second spell began to offer a double-pronged threat as the runs dried up.
While Petersen received a decent delivery to end his stay, that could not be said for Elgar who helped a short, wide offering from Cottrell to gully – an awful waste for a batsman in conditions when a good ball is never far away. Cottrell, the former soldier, who used to stand guard at Sabina Park before turning his hand to fast bowling, gave a salute as Marlon Samuels held the chance.
West Indies were buoyed and a few moments later were ecstatic when Roach’s probing line found Faf du Plessis’ outside edge – his first Test duck in his 29th innings – and the third wicket fell with the score on 57.
It brought together the powerhouse figures of South African batting, the captain Amla and dazzling de Villiers on the 10th anniversary of his Test debut against England, at Port Elizabeth, in 2004-05 – which was also Dale Steyn’s first outing. They resisted the remainder of Roach’s six-over opening spell, which finished with 2 for 16, and some relief came with the return of Jerome Taylor who offered two short deliveries in his first over back which were dispatched by Amla.
Spin was introduced in the 23rd over – West Indies opted for a specialist in Sulieman Benn while South Africa left out Robin Petersen – and though Shane Warne’s adage is that “if it seams, it spins”, Benn is unlikely to be viewed as the major threat, at least in this innings.
South Africa have a debutant, Stiaan van Zyl, at No. 6 and he was presented with his cap by JP Duminy, the man whose injury has afford him his Test chance. They also opted for Kyle Abbott as their fourth quick.
South Africa 1 Alviro Petersen, 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Hashim Amla (capt), 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Stiaan van Zyl, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Kyle Abbott
West Indies 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Leon Johnson, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Jermaine Blackwood, 7 Denesh Ramdin (capt & wk), 8 Jerome Taylor, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Sulieman Benn