CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jan 4, CMC – Leon Johnson and Marlon Samuels mounted an admirable fightback as West Indies overcame the loss of both openers to steady themselves, and set up an intriguing penultimate day of the third Test on Monday.
At the close on Sunday, the Caribbean side were 88 for two in their second innings, thanks to an unbroken 61-run, third wicket stand between Johnson and Samuels.
The left-handed Johnson was unbeaten on 37 while Samuels was not out on 26, in a partnership that was necessary after both Devon Smith (7) and Kraigg Brathwaite (16) fell in the space of 18 deliveries, to leave West Indies tottering on 27 for two an hour into the final session.
Smith survived 36 balls in 50 minutes at the crease before gloving a leg-side catch behind off seamer Morne Morkel, at 23 for one.
With four runs added, Brathwaite missed a back foot defensive prod at one from off-spinner Colin Harmer that turned, and hit off-stump.
He batted just over an hour and faced 55 balls.
If the Proteas were expecting the now customary Windies implosion, it did not materialise as Johnson and Samuels buckled down to produce mature knocks. Johnson has faced 66 balls and struck five fours while Samuels has consumed 57 deliveries and counted four fours.
Emerging from a cautious start which saw him spend 28 balls over his first nine runs, Johnson finally showed some aggression when he lifted Harmer over the in-field to the ropes at long on, in the bowler’s sixth over.
He followed up by slashing fast bowler Dale Steyn square for four before punching Morkel to the mid-off boundary in the penultimate over of the day.
Seeming oblivious to the looming close, Johnson took a couple of boundaries off the day’s final over from Steyn – the first a streaky shot through gully and the second a convincing pull off the last ball.
Samuels, meanwhile, was more sedate than usual especially against Harmer but still found time for two pulled boundaries off the bowler early in his innings and a lovely back-foot drive through cover.
His innings was not without event, however, as he survived a review on eight off an lbw decision to seamer Vernon Philander and then gained a reprieve on 13 when Morkel at mid-on grassed a difficult low chance off Steyn.
Earlier, AB de Villiers completed his 21st Test hundred and second of the series as South Africa were bowled out for 421 in their first innings on the stroke of tea, after losing their last seven wickets for 194 runs to gain a first innings lead of 92.
Overall, the right-hander faced 194 balls, in five hours and 23 minutes at the crease, and counted five fours and a six. He was eventually last out, taken in the deep off Samuels as he tried to accelerate the scoring.
Off-spinner Samuels finished with two for 68 and fast bowler Jason Holder, two for 87. Significantly, two wickets fell via the run route route as the visitors’ ground fielding improved tremendously.
Resuming the day on 227 for three, South Africa lost captain Hashim Amla after he had added just eight to his overnight 55, taken at the wicket off Holder in the seventh over of the morning.
He hit seven fours off 150 balls in 189 minutes.
de Villiers then took control of the innings, posting 96 for the sixth wicket with Stiaan van Zyl who chipped in with 33.
Starting the day on 32, de Villiers moved quickly into the 40s with boundaries in the first two overs of the morning from Samuels and Holder, before reaching his half-century with a couple square on the off-side off Holder, in the fifth over of the morning.
He lost Amla but put on 34 for the fifth wicket with Temba Bavuma who scored 15 before dragging on to fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, as he tried to pull out of the stroke.
At lunch, de Villiers was unbeaten on 84 with South Africa on 313 for five and he reached three figures in the fourth over after the break, by smashing three fours off Samuels’ ninth over which cost 16 runs.
Van Zyl had batted an hour-and-a-half and faced 63 balls when he was lbw to Samuels at 384 for six and his dismissal saw the Windies quickly wrap up the innings as the last five wickets fell for 37 runs.