Drama in the drizzle at St George’s Park

 DOUBLE TON: Marlon Samuels touches the West Indies badge on his chest after scoring 100. Behind him is fellow centurion Kraigg Brathwaite. Picture: MIKE HOLMES
DOUBLE TON: Marlon Samuels touches the West Indies badge on his chest after scoring 100. Behind him is fellow centurion Kraigg Brathwaite. Picture: MIKE HOLMES

CRICKET ran away and joined the circus on the fourth day of the second test between South Africa and West Indies at St George’s Park yesterday. Drum roll, please: rain washes 104 overs out of the first three days’ play. More dreary drizzle on the fourth day, yesterday, prevents the start of play for three hours.

Then the dishwater sky clears enough to allow 11.3 overs. Back comes the rain, but for only 26 minutes.

Soon after play resumes, Kraigg Brathwaite and Marlon Samuels double the number of test centuries West Indies have scored in the 14 tests they have played in South Africa in their 16 years of touring here – only to be dismissed four balls apart.

Brathwaite was taken at second slip for 106 off Morne Morkel, who spent much of his time yesterday bowling nasty – round the wicket with a short leg, a leg gully and a fine leg in an ambush formation.

He found the bounce he needed to keep his prey in his sights and to take 4/69 in a fine display of aggressive fast bowling.

The Proteas’ plan, Morkel said, was “… to arrive with a lot of hunger and a lot of energy, and to show why we’re the best attack in the world”.

And his own plan? “It’s quite hard to duck on this wicket. It would have been boring to stay over the wicket and bowl on off-stump.” After all that, Imran Tahir, who would not have played in this match had Robin Peterson not been injured the day before it started, appeared.

Mainly he struggled to grip the wet ball when tasked with bowling tightly rather than aggressively and instead sent down over after over of boundary fodder.

But then he dismissed the most obdurate batsman in the game on his way to 3/108.

Samuels, who was trapped in front for 101 by Vernon Philander, took a special liking to Tahir’s offerings, smashing the leg spinner for 61 off as many of his deliveries. “I don’t think any spinner should bowl to me and dictate terms,” growled Samuels, whose stand of 176 with Brathwaite is a West Indies record in tests against South Africa.

Enough already? Not even close. West Indies had lost five wickets for 15 runs in the space of 29 balls when another shower ended the day’s play with the visitors on 275/9.

That means the Proteas go into the last day still 142 runs ahead. So, smart bowling to wrap up the Windies’ innings, smarter batting to set a target, and who knows what might yet happen …

But not so fast: some weather forecasts are for rampant rain today, while others are for steady sunshine. As they say in the classics: What next?

That so much should happen in the 35 overs that were possible yesterday beggars belief. Or, as Samuels said: “Test cricket is not kid cricket – it’s big-man cricket.”

Except that Shivnarine Chanderpaul looked like a 10-year-old playing in his backyard rather than, at 40, test cricket’s oldest current player when a Tahir top spinner trickled between his legs before nudging the leg-side bail off the stumps.

Chanderpaul is the fulcrum around which West Indies batting has turned for much of the past 20 years. But he scored 25 runs in his two innings in the first test at Centurion, and he was out for seven yesterday.

That, however, was cause for Samuels to issue a stern warning: “When a guy like Chanderpaul doesn’t get runs for two games, look out.”

But Morkel threw down an omen of his own: “Dale Steyn is the No1 bowler in the world. It’s my job to prepare the ball for him to get it to reverse.”

Steyn found wicked reverse swing to take 3/10 in four overs on the last afternoon of the second test against Australia at St George’s Park in February to bowl his side to an unlikely win.

That match ended in bright sunshine. This one? Who knows. Send in the clowns … – Telford Vice

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