Dean Elgar’s seventh-ranked South Africa needed only seven sessions to coast past Kraigg Brathwaite’s feckless West Indies in the First Test in St Lucia on Saturday. Well-deserved five-fers by the frontline quicks in both innings and a long-awaited, well-paced century by former South Africa skipper Quinton de Kock made the sixth-ranked Caribbean side look like mere schoolboys—well out of their depth against this quality of opposition.
On a helpful track at the Daren Sammy Ground, the visitors’ four-pronged pace attack twice dismissed the home side for under 200 runs to record an impressive innings and 63-run victory.
Lungi Ngidi (13.5-7-19-5) and Kagiso Rabada (20-9-34-5) each accounted for half of the WI batting in the first and second innings respectively. They got good support from fellow pacer Anrich Nortje, whose consistent pace and exploitation of the bounce in the pitch earned him a match haul of 7 for 81.
In his team’s reply to the WI’s paltry first innings 97, Man-of-the-Match de Kock outscored the entire WI XI, blasting 12 fours and seven sixes in his 170-ball 141. Coming in at 119 for 4, the left-handed wicketkeeper/batsman first shepherded the innings past the 200-run mark before charging past 100 in a 79-run ninth-wicket partnership with Nortje.
De Kock never looked in any real trouble against Brathwaite’s attack, led by veteran pacer Kemar Roach (2/64) and former skipper Jason Holder (4/75), who was the pick of the WI bowlers. Teenage debutant Jayden Seales, however, accounted for three of the first four wickets to fall to finish with encouraging match figures of 3/75
The die was cast in the first two sessions of the game on Thursday when, having won the toss, Brathwaite inexplicably opted to give the South Africans first use of the pitch. The move backfired spectacularly as the Proteas were starting their innings after only 40 overs and, by the end of Day One, were already 25 runs to the good.
In the post-match interview, Brathwaite defended his decision, hinting disingenuously that he did not think it had influenced the eventual outcome.
For his part, Elgar dodged the question, declining to say unequivocally what he would have done had he won the toss.
Day Two began with de Kock first ensuring that his team would build a healthy lead on the paltry WI first innings effort. He took 98 balls to get to 50. Then, once his eye was in and the foundation laid, his second 50 came at a run-a-ball and 41 more off just 22 balls. It was only his sixth Test century and his first since he hit 111 against India in October 2019. In the interim, he had accepted and then relinquished the captaincy of the Test team.
The West Indies batsmen in contrast largely looked uncomfortable at the crease. Over the two innings, Shai Hope, Jermaine Blackwood, Kyle Mayers and Rahkeem Cornwall all fell to loose shots and three others were dismissed shouldering arms. In addition, several of them were struck on the helmet or about the body taking evasive action against the short ball.
At the start of Day One, recalled opener Hope (15) and his skipper (15) had survived a testing first hour, posting the innings’ largest partnership, 24, against the luckless Rabada and Ngidi. But once Nortje had accounted for both openers in quick succession, it was virtually an uninterrupted procession from the pavilion to the middle and back.
Rabada accounted for Nkrumah Bonner (10), in the process putting him out of the game. From 48 for 4 at lunch, the WI surrendered meekly, with only Holder (20) and Cornwall (13) getting to double figures.
Chasing a deficit of 225 in the WI second innings, Kieran Powell, in for the concussed Bonner, and Brathwaite managed only 12 at the top of the order. Hope, shifted down to number three, looked in trouble against the short stuff and Mayers for the second time looked nothing like the player who had posted a double-hundred on debut in Bangladesh.
Despite some uneven bounce, the recalled Roston Chase (62 off 156 balls) gave a good account of himself, collecting seven fours and a six off Keshav Maharaj. The spinner bowled him off the edge just before the scheduled lunch break on Day Three, prompting the extension of the session by an initial 15 minutes.
The umpires, Joel Wilson and Gregory Brathwaite, whose decisions were regularly sent upstairs for adjudication, would have added a further half-hour if the last two wickets could survive beyond that.
It proved unnecessary.
WI 97 (J Holder 20, L Ngidi 5/19, A Nortje 4/35) & 162 (R Chase 62, K Rabada 5/34, A Nortje 3/46)
S/Africa 322 (Q de Kock 141 not out,* A Markram 60, R van der Dussen 46, J Holder 4/74, J Seales 3/75, K Roach 2/64)
S/Africa won by an innings and 63 runs.
Man-of-the-Match: Q de Kock
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