The West Indies were 147-2 in reply to South Africa’s 417-8 dec when bad light stopped play on day three at St George’s Park.
West Indies batsmen Kraigg Brathwaite (65 not out) and Marlon Samuels (60 not out) have already put on 92 runs for the third wicket, and are in a position to save this Test match. This may not have seemed possible when the West Indies lost Devon Smith and Deon Johnson shortly before tea, as the Proteas bowlers and chief destroyer Morné Morkel were expected to make further inroads before the end of play.
And yet, Brathwaite and Samuels have dug in, and at this point is looks as if the West Indies will avoid the follow-on and force the Proteas to bat again. This small victory may be monumental in the context of the game as well as the series. The Proteas may not have enough time to obtain a result in this Test, and so the third and final game at Newlands may hold the key to the series win, or a draw.
After lunch on day three, the Proteas powered to a total of 417 thanks to the clean hitting of Dale Steyn (58 off 28 balls). Steyn and team-mate Vernon Philander scored 48 runs in the five overs after the interval, and when Steyn finally holed out, Hashim Amla signalled the declaration. This ensured that the Proteas enjoyed a crack at the West Indies top order before tea.
Smith and Brathwaite then proceeded to put on 55 for the first wicket. They looked comfortable when facing up to the likes of Steyn, whose bowling was less explosive than his batting. Philander also failed to trouble the opening pair, and at one stage it seemed likely that the West Indies would go to tea without loss.
Morkel was the most accurate and threatening of the South African bowlers during this period. He hit Smith on the helmet with a sharp delivery, and then had the West Indies opener caught at first slip shortly after. Johnson drove at the very next ball, but only succeeded in edging it to third slip. Suddenly the West Indies were two down, and South Africa had their tails up.
And yet, the Proteas failed to press the advantage home in the third and final session. Brathwaite and Samuels’s wickets were still intact when play was stopped because of the bad light at St George’s Park.
The wet weather in Port Elizabeth has already impacted on this contest. Most of the play on day two was lost due to the rain, and the start of action on day three was delayed by an hour.
The bad news for the Proteas, who are pushing for a win that will give them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, is that more bad weather is forecast for days four and five.
DAY THREE SCORECARD
SA 1st innings – 417-8 dec (Dean Elgar 121, Faf du Plessis 103, Shannon Gabriel 2-80)
West Indies 1st innings – 147-2 (Kraigg Brathwaite 65 not out, Marlon Samuels 60 not out, Morné Morkel 2-24)
West Indies trail by 270 runs