A lot of sand has disappeared down the hourglass and a ton of hard work has been put in since South Africa’s last away Test series triumph, but Keshav Maharaj was again at the centre of the success as his hat trick and five-wicket haul bowled the Proteas to a 158-run win and a 2-0 series result against the West Indies at St Lucia on Monday.
South Africa last won an away Test series against New Zealand in March 2017, with Maharaj the man of the match for his six for 40 in the second innings of the only Test they won, in Wellington.
The left-arm spinner was the hero again on Monday as he claimed only the second hat trick for South Africa in Test history.
“There were so many thoughts going through my head before the third wicket as to what delivery to bowl, and in the end it just drifted down leg, it could have been a much better ball,” Maharaja said.
“But credit to Wiaan (Mulder) for an amazing catch. Whatever he wants to eat or drink tonight is probably on me.
“I didn’t realise our last away series win was as far back as 2017, so this feels really good.”
Maharaj struck in the penultimate over before lunch, dismissing Kieran Powell (51), Jason Holder (0) and Joshua da Silva (0) with successive deliveries as Anrich Nortje, Keegan Petersen and Mulder took catches of increasing difficulty as the West Indies collapsed from 90 for two to 107 for six.
Chasing 324, they were eventually all out for 165 with Maharaj finishing with five for 36 in 17.3 overs and Kagiso Rabada taking three for 44.
Opener Powell looked in the mood to stick around, but then suddenly decided to tee-up Maharaj and slog-swept him straight to Nortje at deep midwicket. The tall Holder then inside-edged his first ball on to his pad from where it rebounded quickly to short-leg, Petersen taking a sharp catch quite high to his left.
The hat trick ball saw Mulder snatch a marvellous one-handed grab at leg-slip, diving to his right, as Da Silva tickled Maharaj around the corner.
South Africa’s only other Test hat trick came in 1960 when fast bowler Geoff Griffin performed the feat against England at Lord’s.
“As a team we want to move in a different direction and this was the first obstacle, so it’s really good to get over it,” Maharaj said.
“We want to be the polished article and to keep being ruthless is really important for this team. Fair play too to our fast bowlers, who were superb. They just don’t give the batsmen an inch, so they tried to score off me and I reaped the rewards.”