Buoyed by their luck with the toss and weather and a pitch more identifiable as Headingley in Leeds than St. George's Park in Port Elizabeth, the West Indies secured the early advantage in the second Test, yesterday.
They were then frustrated by sheer bad luck, thwarted by the depth of the South African batting and driven to distraction by the methods of Pat Symcox, the oldest as well as the most talkative, combative and underestimated of contemporary Test cricketers.
Aged 38 and with the build, aggression and vocabulary of a professional wrestler, Symcox once more engineered a crucial late-order South African revival.
He entered the fray 50 minutes before tea when his captain, Hansie Cronje, had just been run out, two wickets had fallen for four runs and, sent in, his team were seven down for 142. A disappointing crowd of under 5 000 in stands that hold three times that many was hushed and the West Indies fast bowlers, restored to their traditional number of four, were enjoying themselves on an encouragingly grassed pitch on a chilly, overcast day.
By the time umpires Rudi Koertzen and David Shepherd consulted their light meters and determined conditions were too gloomy to continue, Symcox was still going, unbeaten 30, after an hour and three-quarters of unorthodox, but effective, resistance. South Africa, and their supporters, were in better spirits at 223 for eight off 53.4 of the allocated 90 overs.
Symcox was influential in partnerships of 35 with wicket-keeper Mark Boucher, 17, and, more infuriating for the increasingly exasperated West Indians, 48 with No.10 Allan Donald who was 27 at the end, only six short of his highest Test score.
Even at tea, taken at 182 for eight, coach Malcolm Marshall was commenting that South Africa had been allowed 35 to 40 runs too many, most of them to unprotected third man that accounted for most of them. With Curtly Ambrose absent after the break with a slight groin strain and fortune favouring the South African pair, that too many had significantly multiplied.
One down in the series, the West Indies' suspect batting faces testing times today against the quality pace of Donald and Shaun Pollock should conditions remain the same.
Twice earlier on the tour, for Grigqualand West and in the first Test, Symcox's verbal bluster and free-swinging method had upset the West Indies' plan. It did again as Brian Lara sought to counter him with deep spread fields.
It allowed him free runs and, when he was choked by lifters from Courtney Walsh and the pacy, if inconsistent, Nixon McLean, his hasty jabs of self-preservation off throat and body repeatedly landed in vacant territory that would have been patrolled for a more recognised batsman.
Symcox is not a rabbit. A year ago, he scored a Test hundred against Pakistan at No. 10 in similar circumstances. If more conventional tactics are not used against him, he will continue to be the sting in South Africa's tail.
Yet to win a match on tour, the West Indies cricket has been indifferent at best. Even though Philo Wallace was down with the flu and had to be replaced in the morning, their mood was instantly buoyed once Brian Lara correctly predicted the toss.
By lunch, Courtney Walsh had removed the new opener Herschelle Gibbs, his left-handed partner Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis to go past Ian Botham as the third highest wicket-taker in Test history, at 385. Merv Dillon replaced him after his opening spell and, in an impressive start to his first Test in a year, soon split Darryl Cullinan's leg-stump with a yorker so that South Africa were tottering at 86 for four at the first interval.
Gibbs, much publicised as the non-White inclusion in the controversially all-white eleven, was returning to the Test team for the first time in two seasons. He had no luck as his fateful ball rebounded from front pad and glove to remove the off-bail. Kirsten and Kallis both fell to bodyline lifters, caught off the glove.
The left-handed Kirsten was victim of yet another masterful catch by wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs, to match those of his debut Test in Johannesburg. This was wide and low down the leg-side and required anticipation and athleticism to gather with extended right glove.
Cullinan and Kallis went in successive overs. The former was comprehensively yorked leg-stump, the latter taken at second slip off a tangled hook that lobbed off the glove.
Ambrose, showing no ill effects from the sore elbow that had bothered him for a few days, bowled seven luckless overs in the morning, repeatedly beating uncertain edges and yielding only seven runs. He earned immediate recompense with the sixth ball into the second session by forcing the dangerous Jonty Rhodes into an edged catch to second slip.
South Africa were tottering at 89 for five but it was then that the depth of their batting became evident.
Upright and straight-batted, Pollock compiled 28 with more flair and assurance than anyone, driving and pulling off the meat of the bat and dominating a stand of 49 with captain Hansie Cronje. It was a revival that appeared to have been wasted when both were out within four runs of each other in mid-afternoon.
Ambrose went round the wicket, a strategy with which he has never been comfortable, to claim Pollock to a catch to third slip and Cronje was the run out victim of a sharp piece of fielding and pinpoint throwing by Wallace's last-minute replacement, Floyd Reifer, from extra-cover.
It created the kind of crisis that has repeatedly brought the best out of Symcox and did again.
With Ambrose off the field, he and Boucher checked the West Indies. After Boucher fended one of the few balls that McLean managed to direct around off-stump to second slip, he and Donald accumulated even more valuable runs to curious field-placings, Donald taking the lead with a cover-driven boundary off McLean and two more besides.
They could all prove decisive in the end.
Day 2: 17 wickets fall as WI collapse
Mas in St George's
SOUTH AFRICA took complete command of the Second Test-and the series-on a remarkable second day at St George's Park here yesterday.
Their bowlers exploited an accommodating pitch and glaring technical West Indian deficiencies as their opponents had failed to do on the opening day and, when Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh threatened to slacken their grip, the depth of their batting again proving decisive.
Keeping the full length and direct line required by a grass-covered, ball-marked surface, Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald and their impressive new accomplice David Terbrugge routed the West Indies for 121 in 37.3 overs between quarter past eleven and half past two.
The collapse was not unfamiliar for they have now been dismissed for under 160 seven times in the past two years but this was the lowest total since the 100 all out against New Zealand at Christ Church in 1987.
The resultant lead was 124 and, in spite of the typically lion-hearted efforts of Ambrose and Walsh once more to retrieve an impossible situation, South Africa were 143 for five when fading light ended play with 11 overs to go.
The overall advantage was 247, Jonty Rhodes and Pollock were together in the highest partnership of the match, 90, and the most reliable lower order in the game was still to come. Put another way, only a miracle, or unsympathetic weather, can prevent the West Indies from falling behind 2-0 in the series with three to go.
Pessimistic South Africans were last night nervously referring to a Test at this same St George's Park two seasons back when they bundled Australia out for 108 for a lead of 101 only to lose by two wickets as Australia achieved their target of 271 on the back of Mark Waugh's stirring hundred. Anything is possible with these two unpredictable teams but conditions and attitudes will have to drastically change for there to be a similar turnaround this time. There is no hint of either.
It has not taken long to identify the main differences between the sides here and they were starkly exposed throughout another enthralling day on which 17 wickets tumbled for 196 before Rhodes and Pollock comfortably, and positively, batted through the last hour and a half.
Rhodes 50 off 67 balls featured a hooked six off Dillon and seven fours, Pollock's 40 off 69 balls three correct, straight-batted boundaries and neither offered a glimmer of a chance.
Whereas Ambrose and Walsh, the West Indies' wily old campaigners, lacked for effective support from their potential successors, Nixon McLean and Merv Dillon, Terbrugge, a tall redhead from Johannesburg in his second Test with a high action and an acute appreciation of the value of proper length and line, delivered three crushing blows to the West Indies middle-order on either side of lunch.
The West Indies could not recover from the shambles of 67 for six following the loss of four wickets for nine during Terbrugge's spell, in spite of the left-handed McLean's breathtaking hitting that brought four awesome sixes in 31 off 12 balls.
In contrast, South Africa's late order converted 142 for seven to 245 all out in the first innings and Rhodes, unbeaten 50, and Pollock, 40, have rebuilt the second from the insecurity of 53 for five.
Day 3: West Indies outclassed by South Africa
PORT ELIZABETH - The West Indies, utterly lacking the discipline, the commitment, the unity and the all-round depth their opponents possessed in abundance, capitulated to a humiliating defeat to South Africa in the second Test here yesterday.
The margin of 178 runs and the premature completion 35 minutes after tea on the third day were as much indictments of their carefree approach to a crucial match as to the outstanding South African performance that earned them a 2-0 lead in the five-Test series.
Given an unrealistic 320 to win after South Africa were dismissed for 195 in their second innings half-hour before lunch, the West Indies were thrown into an immediate state of confusion as Stuart Williams, laid low by a bout of the flu, could not take his appointed place as opener.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul went in first instead, Brian Lara chose to shelter himself at No. 5 following his sequence of low scores and wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs, in his second Test, was sacrificed at No. 3 where he had never appeared before.
It made no difference to the shocking approach that has been such a hallmark of this team for some time now. Routed in the first innings for 121 in 37.3 overs, they managed to total only 20 more and survived five balls more on a pitch not nearly as difficult as it had been then. There were, yet again, several wanton strokes and two ridiculous run outs, of Carl Hooper and Nixon McLean, created by muddled thinking and South Africa's clinical efficiency in the field.
The biggest crowd of the match of just under 10 000 revelled in their team's dominance and, as the resident brass band greeted every wicket with a different refrain, even the electronic scoreboard unconsciously mocked the West Indies. While the collapse continued, it flashed one advertisement: ``This match is like a Corsa. No contest.''
The prelude to the surrender was ironically encouraging for the West Indies. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, significantly the only two survivors of the great eras of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, removed the last half of the South African second innings order for the addition of 52 in the morning.
Ambrose, disregarding a slight groin strain and a sore elbow, accounted for four of the five wickets to finish with six for 51, the 20th time in his great career he had removed at least half the opposition.
He induced an ambitious pull from Shaun Pollock off his second ball that went directly to mid-on, found wicket-keeper Mark Boucher's edge for Hooper's fifth catch of the match at second slip, claimed his fourth wicket off another pull that Jonty Rhodes deflected into his stumps and had Pat Symcox fending off a throat ball to short-leg.
In the process, he also lit a fire in fellow fast bowler, Allan Donald, pole axing him for a few anxious moments with a bouncer that cracked him on the side of the helmet and leaving Walsh to finish him off by hitting his off-stump.
Twenty minutes were left to lunch and, treated with an ice pack and recovered from his blow, Donald returned to immediately deliver an explosive blast of his own that Clayton Lambert wafted forlornly at to present wicket-keeper Mark Boucher with an edged catch to set off the West Indies' disintegration.
For three-quarters of an hour, Chanderpaul and Jacobs filled their unaccustomed roles resolutely but they were given no respite by the unwavering South Africans.
When Pollock tired, Hansie Cronje could call on the brisk, accurate medium-pace of batsman Jacques Kallis to fill the breach. It was the confidence that Lara did not have in his two support bowlers, McLean and Merv Dillon, who did not get a sniff of the ball in the morning, and Kallis struck with his third delivery. The left-handed Jacobs, back and across his stumps, was palpably lbw.
Hooper now entered and, after taking a while to sort out Kallis' deceptive pace, had seemingly settled in after half-hour. He was then the victim of the first absurd run out, a further crippling blow to the effort.
He stroked Pollock through extra-cover off the backfoot and, as Cronje chased, turned for a palpable second only to realise when well past the point of no return that Chanderpaul had remained rooted in the opposite crease. The dismissal was completed amidst much hilarity on and off the field.
The decline now accelerated.
Chanderpaul and Floyd Reifer edged low into the slips where catchers with fly-paper hands snapped them up. McLean was miles out as he crazily called Lara for a second run off his first ball, again with Cronje in pursuit. Williams, appearing in a sweater and as much under the weather as the side, was lbw going back to Donald.
It meant that Lara was stranded with only Ambrose, Dillon and Walsh as partners and, after restricting himself to a single off his first 22 balls, he unleashed his volley of strokes that brought him 38 off the next 27, among them seven fours and a six, most of Donald.
He had just pulled Donald for six into the stands at midwicket from the meat of the blade to add to his seven fours when he attempted a similar stroke to one too close to him next ball and lobbed it to mid on.
It was an electrifying interlude but was no more than the flailing of a dying innings for, by then, the cause was well beyond redemption.
While South African tail enders sell their wickets dearly, their West Indian put no value on theirs.
Dillon smashed a straight six off Pollock and, swiping blindly, was bowled next ball and the innings ended when Donald, to the demands of the unforgiving crowd, did unto Ambrose what Ambrose had done to him earlier.
The only difference was that Ambrose managed to protect his head with his bat in time and the rebound lobbed into the slips where Pollock's catch formalised the victory in which he was adjudged Man of the Match by Eldine Baptiste, the former West Indies all-rounder, now Port Elizabeth resident and Eastern Province stalwart.
The submission was not unfamiliar. A year ago, in Pakistan, the West Indies were crushed by an innings in two Tests and by 10 wickets in another as they tumbled for one low total after another.
We felt then that was the ultimate shame. With the much publicised relevance of a black team to the ethnic majority of South Africa now emerging from the apartheid years of repression, this was worse.
Sir Garry Sobers, watching in disbelief from the pavilion, bemoaned the batsmen's lack of responsibility. But, he added, ``they've first got to learn what responsibility is''. They have until Boxing Day, the start of the third Test in Durban.