South African captain Hashim Amla made a patient half-century as he and AB de Villiers steered their team towards a sound position on the second day of the third and final Test against the West Indies at Newlands on Saturday.
South Africa were 227 for three when rain ended play half an hour early â€“ 102 runs behind the West Indian first innings total of 329.
“We’re in a really good position,” said South African batsman Faf du Plessis, who made 68 â€“ the highest score in the match.
“The base has been created for us to score some really big runs.”
Du Plessis said one of the strengths of South Africa’s batsmen was their ability to convert fifties into hundreds. “Hashim and AB will do it more consistently than most batters,” he said.
“It’s a good batting wicket and a case of us getting as many runs as possible to get a good lead.”
On a day of largely attritional cricket, the West Indies opted for defensive fields after an initial burst of aggression with the new ball, while the South African batsmen were content to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
It was a game of patience, with only one South African batsman falling victim to frustration â€“ when Du Plessis leapt out of his crease and was stumped off left-arm spinner Suleiman Benn.
“I should have got a hundred or at least have been 80 or 90 not out tonight. It was a lapse of concentration,” he admitted.
A near-capacity crowd then saw Amla and De Villiers forge a careful unbeaten fourth wicket partnership of 70. Amla made 55 not out off 130 balls with seven fours, while De Villiers was on 32 off 52 deliveries, hitting four boundaries.
Fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel took two wickets each as South Africa wrapped up the West Indian first innings inside the first hour.
Resuming at 276 for six, the West Indies lost their remaining four wickets amid a flurry of strokes.
Jerome Blackwood reached his third Test half-century with a cover drive for four off Steyn but was then trapped in front of his stumps with a full, swinging delivery after making top score of 56.
Jason Holder and Jerome Taylor both went for their shots before perishing to mistimed blows. Holder top-edged a pull and was caught at mid-on and Taylor was caught at fine leg when he hooked a ball from Morkel.
Benn was last man out, driving Morkel to mid-off. Steyn finished with four for 78 and Morkel two for 83.
Taylor and Gabriel both built up plenty of pace at the start of the South African innings, with Gabriel recorded at over 150kmh.
But they bowled some loose deliveries as they tried to unsettle the batsmen with short-pitched deliveries. Both fast bowlers conceded wides with balls that climbed over wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin’s head for four extra runs.
The tall Holder conceded 12 runs in his first over after replacing Gabriel but followed up with a maiden before Dean Elgar played across a full delivery and was out for eight.
With the West Indies having as many as three fielders on the boundary for much of the rest of the day,
Du Plessis and Alviro Petersen put on 56 for the second wicket before opening batsman Petersen was run out by a direct hit from Jermaine Blackwood at point for 42. It was a cruel blow for Petersen, whose place is under threat after a string of modest scores.
Du Plessis went on to make 68 off 123 balls with eight fours before he became the only victim of Benn, who bowled an economical unbroken spell of 24 overs, taking one for 62.
Holder admitted that the West Indies had not taken full advantage of winning the toss. and batting.
“We were probably 70 runs short,” he said. “It is important for us to start well (on Sunday) and get some early wickets.”