West Indies spinners Sulieman Benn and Shane Shillingford took all three wickets on day one of the first Test as the Proteas crawled to 70-3 in the day’s 34 overs.
Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen had guided the visitors to 45-0 at tea, but the spinners made their mark after the break, with Shillingford removing both openers (on his Test debut) and Benn getting rid of Hashim Amla, the three wickets falling in the space of 15 runs to leave South Africa struggling at 70-3 when bad light stopped play.
The seamers, who were hampered by the tacky wicket, caused little trouble and it was no great shock when Chris Gayle turned to Benn early. Bounce and sharp turn off the dry surface were immediate – length was not. It took Benn an over to find a troubling length, but midway through his second the batsmen looked troubled.
Encouraged by Benn’s success, Shillingford took the ball for the first time. With the debutant operating from over the stumps, Smith was able to cover the turn and bounce with his body, the line negating any lbw shout. Shillingford, pushing his length forward and Smith, habitually playing back, didn’t get close enough to the pitch of the ball. It gripped and spun to take the edge – Bravo holding on to a rising catch at slip to take the score to 55-1.
Where Petersen and Smith had stayed deep in the crease to counter the turn, Amla responded by shuffling by shuffling right across to smother Shillingford’s line. However Amla had no answer to the ball spinning across him, falling to Benn on his ninth ball faced.
Petersen ensured the close fielders now converged around the bat weren’t needed when his attempted leg-flick was beaten by the turn and he was struck on the pad. Petersen consulted Jacques Kallis and asked for a referral, but without sufficient cause to overturn the umpire’s decision, he was given his marching orders.
Paul Harris was sent out as nightwatchman and found himself surrounded: slip, gully, silly mid-off, short leg and leg gully all in place. Harris, looking solid considering the flaky batting surface, survived until play was stopped due to bad light.
On the turning wicket Benn, Gayle and Shillingford will likely continue to cause headaches for the visitors. The omission of Johan Botha, JP Duminy on such a turning track could prove costly for the Proteas.
South Africa 70-3 (1st Innings)
Alviro Petersen 31, Graeme Smith 23, Shane Shillingford 2-5
By Rory Keohane