Lessons for the Proteas as the West Indies hit back

10 March 2023 - 07:46
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Gerald Coetzee finished with 3/41 in the West Indies' first innings on Thursday.
Gerald Coetzee finished with 3/41 in the West Indies' first innings on Thursday.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

A hard day’s Test cricket created optimism for the West Indies and provided lessons for the South Africans, who, given their limited Test schedule, would have appreciated the frustration they endured in the final session. 

Gerald Coetzee certainly did. In his second Test, on a pitch he described as offering a more balanced battle between bat and ball, in contrast to the one at Centurion last week that favoured the seamers, he was grateful for the lessons. 

“On this [pitch], if you bowled well you got rewarded, if you bowled badly you went for runs,” he said.

Coetzee, playing the role of lone enforcer in the absence of the injured Anrich Nortjé, certainly delivered the kind of spirited performance that earned him high praise from teammate Kagiso Rabada last week.

He always threatened, taking a wicket with his second ball, when he was switched to the Corlett Drive End. He got his second wicket in his next over of that spell, when South Africa created the kind of pressure that may have had them thinking of another three-day Test. 

But the West Indies’ lower order delivered in a manner South Africa’s haven’t been able to for a while, thanks mainly to Jason Holder. Despite his competitive spirit, Coetzee could appreciate their efforts and what they meant for his own burgeoning Test career.

“It was of course a valuable experience and I don’t think it is the last time it will happen. Jason batted very well and credit to him. That last partnership, any cricketer will tell you, it is tough to deal with,” said Coetzee, who finished with 3/41 in 14 overs. 

Holder and Gudakesh Motie shared a partnership of 58 for the 10th wicket, helping to shrink the first innings deficit to 69, to which Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram added four runs in the final three overs of the day. Both Holder and Coetzee reckoned South Africa still held the upper hand, but the advantage was not as significant as many would have thought, when the West Indies were 116/6 midway through the afternoon session. 

My job was to form partnerships. In our team meetings we speak highly about trying to build partnerships to get in and go big,” said Holder, who scored an unbeaten 81 that featured high-quality shot making. 

Along the way he shared a 41-run partnership for the seventh wicket with Joshua da Silva and a 31-run stand for the ninth wicket with Kemar Roach, before that last wicket combination with Motie.

“My hardest phase was up-front against Rabada who bowled a really good spell to me,” he said.

Once Rabada was taken out of the attack, he took on the two spinners, Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer, increasing the West Indies’ scoring rate against them and taking advantage of conditions he said caught him by surprise. “It didn’t turn as much as I thought it would.” 

The moisture in the surface on the first day had aided Motie’s left-arm spin, but having dried out on Thursday there was less assistance for Maharaj and Harmer. “It was pretty dry and you could hit through the line,” Holder said of the surface. 

That, he believed, will change, even though he is optimistic the West Indies can chase around 300 in the fourth innings. “It won’t be easy but as the game goes on and the pitch deteriorates, I suppose the spinners will come into the game more.”

Maharaj and Harmer may have had a frustrating day on Thursday, but Shukri Conrad forecast that their impact will be felt profoundly the longer the match continues.

“At the SA20 the wicket here was turning and even in domestic four-day games a lot of spinners have taken wickets,” Coetzee said. “The spinners will play a huge role.”

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