Amla, De Villiers inflict batting painN
CENTURION –– West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin got off to a good start by winning the toss in the first Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park, Centurion this morning.
Thereafter, despite the fall of three wickets at 57, it was all downhill for the Caribbean side.
Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers both posted hundreds as South Africa battled to 340 for 3 on a track that offered assistance, even if not initially exploited by the wayward West Indies pace attack.
Amla (133) and De Villiers (141) put on an unbroken stand of 283 after the hosts had lost three wickets for no runs in 15 balls, with Alviro Petersen (27), Dean Elgar (28) and Faf du Plessis (0) departing with the score on 57.
Proteas skipper Amla and De Villiers duly recorded their 23rd and 20th Test tons respectively en route to registering the highest fourth-wicket partnership for South Africa in Tests, beating the 249 set by Jacques Kalliis and Gary Kirsten against West Indies in Durban in 2003.
West Indies, playing in their first international match since the contract dispute that caused them to withdraw from their tour to India in October, elected to field after play was initially delayed by half an hour due to rain.
However, the Windies’ quicks bowled sloppily early on in overcast conditions, with Petersen clubbing Jerome Taylor’s first two balls for four and South Africa racing to 50 before the ten-over mark, with Petersen and Elgar walloping nine boundaries between them. Ramdin strangely held back main strike bowler Kemar Roach and opened the attack with left-armer Sheldon Cotterrell and Taylor. Taylor in particular leaked runs and had a day he would probably like to forget.
But West Indies roared back almost immediately with Roach’s introduction. By the time he came into the attack South Africa already had 44 on the board in nine overs. He brought menace and consistency to the attack, started to build up some pressure and was rewarded with Petersen’s edge with a delivery which straightened and went to first slip. The message was starting to reach the West Indies bowlers and Cotterrell’s second spell began to offer a double-pronged threat as the runs dried up.
Elgar then hacked to Marlon Samuels at gully off the bowling of Cotterrell. Du Plessis then handed Roach his second wicket, edging behind to keeper Ramdin to record his maiden Test duck in his 29th innings. But Amla and De Villiers saw their side through to lunch with a gritty partnership of 45.
Amla, captaining South Africa for the first time in a home Test on the 10th anniversary of his debut in the five-day arena, was given a scare on 25 when his leg bail, after being shaved by a Roach delivery, lifted up before settling back into its groove.
The Durban native made the most of his close call, bringing up three figures off 161 balls, after De Villiers had achieved that feat in 138 balls, including a six down the ground off the spin of Sulieman Benn.
De Villiers later blasted Samuels for another six over cow corner as he and Amla made the West Indies attack –– by now shorn of ankle-injury victim Roach for the rest of the day –– toil by adding 238 runs in the final two sessions.
At the end of today’s play Cotterrell voiced the concerns of teammates and West Indies fans over the ankle injury to Roach. He was taken for scans and the extent of the injury will only be known on the morning of the second day.
“I am very anxious to have him back. I wouldn’t mind it he is there in the morning,” Cotterrell said. “He has so much experience and because I am inexperienced, he gives me pointers.” Cotterrell also admitted that things did not go according to West Indies’ plans.
“My game plan was bowl a good-enough length to disturb the batsmen with the inswinger, because it has been said that South Africa is a bit iffy when coming out against a left arm pace bowler,” he said. “It was moving quite a bit. I didn’t have the control that I really wanted. There was a lot of moisture in the wicket. We were struggling to find lengths and lines.”
Cotterrell rated their performance a five out of ten, but remained hopeful they could increase that on the second day.
“The guys came up with a number of plans, it just didn’t work. Our boys really worked hard today. We are a bit down but we are not out, we are still in it,” he said.