Resuming from the overnight score of 227/3, South Africa added 194 on the third day and the 92-run first innings lead pushed the West Indies into a cautionary mode. The icings on the cake were the two wickets that South Africans took by the end of the day. Thus, when the West Indies begin proceedings on the fourth day, the first task for them will be reaching a zone of safety. The Caribbean visitors are still four runs behind with eight wickets in hand. But if they can build a substantial lead somehow, the cracked pitch can present heavy problem to the South African team, when they bat on the final day. Despite the bookmakers’ 12-1 odds against the West Indies, a possibility can still be created, whereby West Indies could stare the South Africans straight into the eye. But beside such speculations, the third day’s play was highlighted by AB de Villiers’ fine century, his 21st in test cricket. It was a gem of an innings as he was the last man out at 148 and ensured that South Africa reach a point of advantage.
Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers came in the morning to resume from overnight. Their partnership was already going strong after du Plessis’s wicket and on the third day they added another 27 runs. When holder came on to bowl the 76th over, he showed the ball to the umpires. Once convinced, the umpires called for the box of balls, from which to choose another appropriate ball. It seemed that the change of ball brought Amla’s end. Holder sent the changed ball just outside the off stump that straightened off the seam. Amla went for the shot and only managed a thick outside edge to the keeper. But the skipper had done his job. He stayed at the crease for 189 minutes, faced 150 balls and ended up scoring 63. Temba Bavuma joined de Villiers and looked like settling down. But South Africa lost their fifth wicket in the 87th over, when Bavuma was caught in two minds on playing a delivery from Shannon Gabriel. The ball was leaving the off stump and in a split-second’s indecision, Bavuma managed to deflect it on to his stumps to make it 288/5 for South Africa.
On the other end, de Villiers was playing with determination and had reached 68 off 102 balls. He found a great company in Stiaan van Zyl and the two batsmen not only took South Africa past 300 but added an invaluable 96 for the sixth wicket. van Zyl was finally out for 33 in the 109th over, when he was trapped on the back foot by Marlon Samuels. But since ball had hit him high on the back leg, he asked for a review and lost it. Zyl’s wicket opened floodgates for the West Indies as they ran Philander out in the next over from a smart piece of fielding. Though Harmer added 10, he too fell to an LBW decision. But his 19 run partnership with de Villiers took the score past the 400 mark. Dale Steyn was also run out in the 121st over without scoring. Steyn was forced to run by de Villiers but was well short of the crease as a direct throw from Johnson crashed his stumps. Now AB de Villiers was the lone warrior and he made the most of his stay. Finally de Villiers was out as he charged up to clear Samuels over long-on but Gabriel took the skier in his second attempt.
When the West Indies came out for their second innings they had to first wipe out the deficit of 92 runs on the first innings. The openers played slowly and patiently with purpose. But Morne Morkel and Harmer managed to send the two openers back to the pavilion by the end of the day. In the 11th over, Morkel sent down an angled delivery that came on Smith’s pads and as he tried to turn it on the leg side, the ball brushed his gloves. De Villiers took a good low catch on his right. But the delivery that cost West Indies their second wicket was a gem from debut bowler Harmer, who has already had a great time in the match. The spinning ball beat Brathwaite on the off side and the outside edge struck his off-stump. At 27/2, the West Indies score looked ominous. However, Marlon Samuels and Leon Johnson held on until the day’s end to finish with a creditable 88/2.