There were only 50 minutes of action for a decent Saturday crowd at SuperSport Park but it was highly pleasing fare for them as home-grown hero Dale Steyn destroyed the West Indies, bowling South Africa to victory by a massive innings and 220 runs, their second biggest win by an innings, in the first Test at Centurion.
Only their triumph over Sri Lanka at Newlands in the 2001 New Year’s Test, by an innings and 229 runs, has been bigger.
The West Indies batsmen resumed on 76-2 but were powerless to keep a rampant Steyn in check, the fast bowler taking six for 34 as the tourists were bundled out for 131, Kemar Roach again being unable to bat due to his ankle injury.
Steyn’s availability after bowling just five balls in the follow-on innings on Friday was a massive bonus for the injury-hit South Africans and even the most one-eyed West Indian supporter could not help but be impressed by a ferocious spell of fast bowling.
Leon Johnson and Marlon Samuels added 11 to the overnight score before the left-handed Johnson (39) tried to play a short delivery from Steyn just outside off stump. It was unnecessary, the ball got big on him and he could not get over it, edging a regulation catch to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.
Given Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s recent form – 270 runs in his last three innings without being dismissed – his displays in this Test have been an anomaly: 21 in the first innings and then just 4 on Saturday before a Steyn bouncer was beautifully straight and did not get up as much as the 40-year-old expected, the left-hander gloving a simple catch to De Villiers.
By now Steyn was as lethal as a basilisk, all fiery glances and poetry in motion as he hit the popping crease. Samuels (17) and Denesh Ramdin (4) were dismissed within three balls in his fifth over of the morning, the former undone by a clever cutter that gripped and bounced more than expected, and the West Indies captain dismissed in more conventional fashion, prodding from the crease at an away-swinger, De Villiers leaping nimbly to take a spectacular one-handed catch in front of slip.
The West Indies were 105 for six and their effete tail was no match for the brilliance of Steyn.
The last specialist batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, lasted for 17 balls in scoring 15 before a well-directed Morkel lifter at the body had him caught at short-leg, replacement fielder Temba Bavuma snatching up a sharp catch.
Three overs later, it was all over, Steyn having enacted a heavy toll on the West Indies to make up for his wicket-less first innings and claiming his best figures at the ground he called home for so many years.
Chatting to the team
Hashim Amla confirmed he was surprised by how quickly the West Indies folded and Dale Steyn described his bowling as “nothing special”, but there was no way South Africa were merely given a free pass on their way to their crushing innings and 220-run victory at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday.
It took fast bowling of the highest quality from Steyn, the sort of intense, destructive spell that he and so few other fast bowlers are capable of at Test level.
Steyn’s quick mopping up of the West Indies second innings has ensured some extra, much-needed rest for a South African side that was beleaguered by injury during their first Test in four months.
“We’re glad to have an extra one-and-a-half days rest because this felt like a long Test, being the first one we have played in a long time. I was surprised by how quickly the match finished, I didn’t expect to get seven wickets in the session, but the pitch was getting quite difficult to bat on and it was exceptional bowling from Dale. Any team in the world would have found him very difficult to handle today,” Amla said after winning his first Test at home as captain in the most convincing fashion.
“We were standing behind the stumps, AB de Villiers and I, and we could feel that things were going to happen after he hit the left-hander [Leon Johnson] early on. The pitch had quickened up and when Dale gets a sniff he runs through teams, we’ve seen it many, many times before. We’re just glad he’s on our side … “ Amla added.
Steyn had gone wicket-less in the first innings and, although he denied he was particularly striving to make up for it, there seemed a determination and an extra intensity about his performance on Saturday morning.
“I’m never upset as long as we bowl the opposition out and then I’m happy. I thought Vernon [Philander] and Morne [Morkel] bowled beautifully yesterday and even Dean Elgar got a wicket, which made me a bit bummed!
“There was nothing special about today, maybe I was a bit more consistent with my line and length and I got rewarded. Some days you find the edge, other days you go past it, that’s cricket. I deserved it today, but yesterday I didn’t.
“The ball came out nicely and today I got the first edge and then you tend to make the batsman play more and get on a roll,” Steyn said.
The world’s number one fast bowler also gave credit to the fantastic catching behind the wicket, with Alviro Petersen a stand-out at second slip.
For their part, West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin said his team are going to have to show more application if they are going to keep the series alive in Port Elizabeth from Boxing Day.
“We need more application, it was disappointing the way the batsmen got out once they had got starts. It’s very important for us to bat longer sessions, we have to be smart, leave the ball alone, sway away, myself included. We’re up against a very good bowling attack, number one in the world, and they hit very good areas. They don’t give many opportunities and it’s very difficult to get starts on these pitches,” Ramdin said.
In terms of application and skill, the West Indies can do no better than to try and emulate Amla (208) and De Villiers (152), whose record partnership set up South Africa’s impressive victory.