BATSMAN AB de Villiers came of age at Newlands yesterday. With less help from his friends than he is accustomed to, he scored his 21st test century to earn South Africa the advantage in the third test.
De Villiers’s 148 shimmered with brilliance. It was also the main reason SA were able to earn a first innings lead of 92.
But, by stumps on the third day, West Indies had advanced to 88/2 in their second knock, just four runs short of level.
Did the visitors, who were smashed by an innings in the first test at Centurion and saved by the weather at St George’s Park, think they could put SA under pressure and keep them there? West Indies’ team manager Richie Richardson had a ready answer to that question: “Why not? They’re going to have to bat last …”
And that on a cracked pitch that could offer seamers more help than usual as the match reaches its sharp end.
“We know the game will speed up now,” De Villiers said. “When a new batsman comes to the crease, the bowlers have to be on the money.
“I never felt in … I thought I could get out at any stage.”
SA, then, will look for quick wickets to stay on top. But Leon Johnson and Marlon Samuels are well set in a stand that has endured for 121 deliveries and reached 61 runs.
Another factor is that rain is forecast for Cape Town today.
De Villiers featured in seven partnerships, none of which grew to three figures. The closest SA came were the 97 and 96 runs that De Villiers shared with Hashim Amla and Stiaan van Zyl respectively.
The only previous instance of De Villiers scoring a ton despite the lack of a century stand was against Australia at the Wanderers in February 2009, when he made an undefeated 104. Ominously, perhaps, the Aussies won that match by 162 runs.
When rain ended play early on Saturday, Amla and De Villiers looked in firm control and seemed set to build a big lead. But they were parted with the 40th delivery of yesterday’s play – the first bowled with a replacement ball after its predecessor had gone out of shape.
Perhaps surprised by extra hardness in the ball and therefore higher bounce, Amla was caught behind off Jason Holder for a typically patient 63 – which was as many balls as Van Zyl faced for his 33 in a stay of a minute more than three hours that was ended when he was trapped in front by Marlon Samuels.
De Villiers went to his century with a reverse sweep off Samuels, who later had the centurion caught at long-on to end the innings and with it a slide that saw SA lose their last five wickets for 37 runs.
While praising De Villiers, Richardson said they did not want to have watch him for too long. SA fans would disagree. They could have done with another century where De Villiers’s one came from.
– Telford Vice