West Indies spectacularly demolished South Africa on a dramatic, abbreviated third day in St Lucia on Sunday, leaving themselves with a victory target of 322 and setting up a grandstand finish to the decisive third Test at the Daren Sammy National Stadium.
Wet conditions caused by overnight and morning rain forced the abandonment of the first session but any lingering gloom was quickly erased as the home side stunned the Proteas for 174 in their second innings, in a clinical exhibition of bowling and catching.
They were spearheaded by the superb Kemar Roach who claimed four for 52 while Kyle Mayers put aside his struggles with the bat to snare three for 24 with his medium pace.
Rassie van der Dussen, in at number four, underpinned South Africa’s limited resistance with an excellent unbeaten 75 while tail-ender Kagiso Rabada struck a breezy 40 but the visitors never really recovered once they tumbled to 63 for six at tea.
Facing a difficult late period in fading light, openers Kieran Powell (9 not out) and Kraigg Brathwaite (5 not out) survived the six overs possible to take West Indies to 15 without loss.
West Indies require a further 309 for victory with two days remaining in the contest, and will have to complete their joint fifth highest successful run chase in Tests, in order to level the series.
The run chase has revived memories of the second Test at Leeds four years ago when West Indies chased down 322 for victory on the final day, after ending the penultimate day on five without loss with the same openers – Brathwaite and Powell – at the crease.
Roach said the key to victory would be the mental strength of the Windies batsman against a high quality South Africa attack.
“The first hour [is important]. Obviously we have to come here tomorrow mentally prepared to grind,” Roach said following the close.
“The South Africa team has a fantastic bowling line up so it’s all about getting yourself in and staying in, that’s what’s important tomorrow.
“The guys are raring to go. We have some very mentally strong guys in there so once we get them on the park, we should be in for a good Test match.”
Facing a daunting first innings deficit of 149 after being dismissed for 149 at the close on Saturday’s second day, West Indies wasted little time in rebounding.
Roach found Aiden Markram’s (4) edge with just the third ball of the innings with four runs on the board, for Holder to take the first of three catches low at second slip.
Captain Dean Elgar (10) put on 29 for the second wicket with Keegan Petersen (18) but Roach intervened again, combining with Holder to remove the left-handed Elgar.
Petersen had spent 35 balls at the crease and struck two fours when he chopped on to Mayers, who then got the similarly inexperienced Kyle Verreynne (6) to edge one that held its line for wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva to pouch a regulation catch at 52 for four.
With a single run added four balls later, Holder claimed the dangerous Quinton de Kock to a catch at the wicket without scoring, and Mayers turned the innings on its head with his third wicket in his next over, having Wiaan Mulder caught by Shai Hope at gully also without scoring.
After rained forced an early tea, West Indies kept up their momentum in the third over following the resumption, Holder pulling off an astonishing one-handed catch diving full-length to his right, to get rid of Keshav Maharaj for six off 19-year-old pacer Jayden Seales.
But Van der Dussen, who faced 142 balls and stroked five fours and a six, resisted stoutly and found an ally in Rabada to post 70 for the eighth wicket which frustrated West Indies.
Rabada played with gay abandon, smashing five fours and a six in career-best knock which lasted 48 balls before holing out to backward point off Roach, and the last three wickets then perished for 31 runs, as South Africa eked out precious runs at the end.