PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa, CMC – Three missed chances in the post-lunch session proved critical as West Indies were put to the sword by South Africa on the opening day of the Boxing Day second Test here yesterday.
Riding their luck, the hosts reached the close on 270 for two, thanks mainly to a third Test century from opener Dean Elgar and an unbeaten 99 from Faf du Plessis.
The pair’s second wicket stand worth 179 formed the catalyst of the Proteas innings after they were put in to bat by the tourists at St George’s Park.
Elgar, a 27-year-old left-hander in only his 14th Test, survived a chance on 48 to stroke 121, an innings that consumed 239 balls, 5-1/2 hours and contained 18 fours.
Du Plessis, meanwhile, on the verge of his fourth three figure score in Tests on 99, has so far faced 228 balls and struck 12 fours and two sixes.
He was partnered by captain Hashim Amla, unbeaten on 17, the pair having already posted 44 in an unbroken third wicket stand.
West Indies handed a Test debut to left-arm seamer Kenroy Peters, called up as a late replacement for fast bowler Kemar Roach who was ruled out of the series after picking up an ankle injury on the first day of the opening Test at Centurion last week.
The 32-year-old Peters finished with one for 44 after claiming Elgar in the final session.
Shannon Gabriel, who along with fellow speedster Jason Holder were three changes made to the Windies squad, took the other wicket to fall on a tough day for the visitors in the coastal city of Eastern Province.
Elgar and Alviro Petersen (17) capitalized on some pretty ordinary stuff from the Windies seamers in the morning session, to add 47 for the first wicket.
Petersen stroked Peters to the cover boundary off the last ball of the fourth over when the debutant over pitched and Elgar followed up next over, whipping a full toss from the ineffective Jerome Taylor to the ropes at mid-wicket.
They were scoring at nearly four runs an over when Gabriel struck with his fifth delivery on the stroke of the first hour, claiming Petersen to a catch at cover by Leon Johnson off a rank long hop.
Du Plessis was far from convincing early on, and both he and Elgar were forced to survive a testing spell from Holder especially, whose first spell yielded a mere seven runs from six overs.
Restricted to just 21 runs in the second hour, South Africa crawled to lunch on 68 for one, with Elgar on 35 and du Plessis, six.
However, as is now their wont, West Indies then squandered any momentum they had built up, with shabby fielding after the break.
Du Plessis suffered a let-off in the fourth over after lunch, put down on eight by Marlon Samuels, after slicing Taylor low to gully.
He celebrated his good luck by clearing the straight ropes with left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn before pulling Taylor to the square boundary .
Du Plessis continued to ride his good fortune, however, getting a leading edge through point on 22 off Taylor before surviving another chance when he edged to slip on 26 only for Devon Smith to muff the chance.
Of the very next ball, Benn could have accounted for Elgar when the batsman charged out of the crease and was deceived in flight. Captain Denesh Ramdin failed to gather the low take and Elgar escaped.
On 48 at the time, Elgar struck the last ball of the over back overhead for four, to reach his half-century off 127 deliveries.
Both batsmen then got stuck in. du Plessis slapped a wide Benn delivery through cover for four and drove to the mid-on boundary when Gabriel over-pitched, to be unbeaten on 42 at tea, accompanied by Elgar on 85, with South Africa on 157 for one.
After tea, Elgar inched closer to his landmark, driving Gabriel square for four to move into the 90s while du Plessis gathered his half-century off 137 balls, with a leg-side boundary off Benn.
Elgar survived an anxious moment on 95 when an lbw appeal went against Benn and the subsequent review showed the delivery brushing leg stump.
He eventually reached his hundred with a boundary wide of gully off Taylor and then accelerated, reverse-sweeping Benn for four and cutting to the point boundary, in the lanky spinner’s 20th over.
Elgar got two more boundaries off an over from Peters before finally perishing, nicking one from the same bowler which shaped away slightly.
Amla then joined du Plessis to ensure South Africa ended the day on top.
SOUTH AFRICA 1st innings
D Elgar c wkp Ramdin b Peters 121
A Petersen c Johnson b Gabriel 17
F du Plessis not out 99
*H Amla not out 17
Extras (lb4, w5, nb7) 16
TOTAL (2 wkts, 88 overs) 270
To bat: +AB de Villiers, S van Zyl, T Bavuma, V Philander, d Steyn, M Morkel, Imran Tahir.
Fall of wickets: 1-47, 2-226.
Bowling: Taylor 19-4-64-0 (w1, nb2), Peters 15-6-44-1, Holder 13-5-25-0 (nb1), Gabriel 15-0-52-1 (nb3), Benn 25-3-81-0 (nb1), Samuels 1-1-0-0.
WEST INDIES – *+D Ramdin, K Brathwaite, D Smith, L Johnson, M Samuels, S Chanderpaul, D Ramdin, J Holder, J Taylor, S Benn, S Gabriel, K Peters. Toss: West Indies. Umpires: B Bowden, P Reiffel; TV – Aleem Dar.