Proteas rally to 352 despite Benn’s five wickets
Port of Spain: Half-centuries from Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, and Ashwell Prince trumped a penetrative, marathon spell of spin bowling from Sulieman Benn to put South Africa in a favourable position in the opening Test against West Indies.
Boucher missed most of the preceding limited-overs matches, but he got his groove back in the top score of 69, de Villiers supported with 68, and Prince made 57, as the South Africans were dismissed for 352 in their first innings about 10 minutes before the scheduled close on the second day at Queen’s Park Oval yesterday.
“I think we played pretty well,” said de Villiers. “We realized after the first day, the pitch was taking a lot of turn, and quite slow, and it was not easy batting in the first session.
“I am really proud of our effort. We strung good partnerships together, and we got the team out of trouble.”
He added: “All in all, it was a good day for us. We would have been happy with 300, but we got 352, and so we will need to come on the third day and pick up some early wickets to put West Indies under pressure.”
The Proteas’ batsmen battled hard to get on top of the West Indies’ spin bowlers in particular, but Benn, gaining generous turn and bounce from the pitch, was the pick of the home team’s bowlers with five wickets for 120 runs from 47 overs.
Test newcomer Shane Shillingford supported Benn, when he collected three for 96 from 34 overs with his off-spin.
“It is nice to be playing Test cricket again, and this is my first Test at Queen’s Park Oval, which has a reputation of being home of spin bowling in the Caribbean,” said Benn.
“It is nice to know that I was able to perform here. The pitch started out really ideal for spin bowling, but it flattened out, so you had to put in some extra work. I guess being patient, and bowling good lines and lengths, paid off for me in the end.”
Boucher made five fours and one six from 146 balls in his knock to beef-up the visitors’ total, after their innings appeared at the cross roads at 238 for seven.
He reached his 50 from 102 balls with a single to point, and added a valuable 86 for the eighth wicket with Dale Steyn either side of tea to tilt the balance back in favour of South Africa.
Steyn was stumped off Benn for 39, and Boucher continued to rally the South Africans with tail-enders Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe before he was last man dismissed, caught at long-off off Dwayne Bravo.
De Villiers and Ashwell Prince had put the South Africans back on track, when they slid to 107 for five inside the first hour of the day.
The pair added 122 for the sixth wicket to revive South Africa before they were dismissed in the space of 25 balls.
Before lunch, de Villiers and Prince had carried the South Africans to 190 for five at the interval. De Villiers and left-hander Prince gave some backbone to the Proteas’ innings, after West Indies claimed two early wickets.
De Villiers got off the mark with a lofted four to long-on off Shillingford, and one of Prince’s earliest strokes was also a lofted drive to long-on off Benn for his first boundary, and he also carted Shillingford over long-off for a six.
South Africa had continued from their overnight total of 70 for three, and suffered an early blow, when night-watchman Paul Harris was caught at cover for 10 off Benn in the fifth over of the day.
The South Africa batsmen became bogged down against tight spin bowling from Benn and Shillingford, who trapped Jacques Kallis lbw playing back and across to a well-pitched delivery for 28.
The two sides also play Tests in St. Kitts (June 18-22) and Barbados (June 26-30). South Africa have dominated West Indies in Tests since their re-entry into international cricket following international isolation.
They have won 14, and lost three of the 22 matches between the two sides, and two of the wins came at Port of Spain in 2001 and 2005 in the two Tests the sides have played here.