The West Indies have lost both openers and are 110-2 at lunch on day three of the Test at Centurion.
The West Indies have every right to feel aggrieved. For an hour-and-a-half, Kraigg Brathwaite and Devon Smith coped with everything the world’s best attack could hurl at them. The opening pair may well have steered the tourists to lunch with all 10 wickets intact had Smith not become victim of a particularly poor decision by the TV umpire.
The incident occurred in the 22nd over when Smith played across the line of a straight Vernon Philander delivery. The ball went through to the wicketkeeper – AB de Villiers, who was filling in for the injured Quinton de Kock – much to Philander’s excitement.
On-field umpire Billy Bowden stayed his crooked finger, a reaction that prompted Philander to push his captain for a review. Television evidence supported Bowden’s original decision of not out, but Paul Reiffel, the third official tasked with using the technology to review the close calls, had other ideas. Smith was given his marching orders, and the West Indies’ opening stand was broken.
This dismissal provided the spark that South Africa so desperately needed. Initially, the bowling quartet of Dale Steyn, Philander, Morné Morkel, and Kyle Abbott had struggled to trouble Brathwaite and Smith. After that first breakthrough, however, a second soon followed. This time, no official confirmation was needed, as Philander induced an edge that had Brathwaite caught at first slip.
The double breakthrough in the morning session at Centurion will encourage the South African bowlers. While they were inconsistent, it must be remembered that they have not contributed in this format since the one-off Test against Zimbabwe in August. They will be expected to shake off the rust in the next two sessions and make further inroads into a West Indies batting lineup that is devoid of experience and real quality.
SA 1st innings – 552-5 dec (Hashim Amla 208, AB de Villiers 152, Stiaan van Zyl 101no, Kemar Roach 2-52).
WI 1st Innings – 110-2 (Kraigg Brathwaite 34, Devon Smith 35, Vernon Philander 2-45)
West Indies trail by 442 runs