Bridgetown - AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince shared a sixth wicket record partnership against the West Indies to enable the Proteas Castle Test squad to achieve its first objective on the second day of the third Test at Kensington Oval on Sunday.AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince shared a sixth wicket record partnership against the West Indies to enable the Proteas Castle Test squad to achieve its first objective on the second day of the third Test at Kensington Oval on Sunday.
That was to lead on the first innings and the second will now be to stretch that advantage as far as possible so that they either do not need to bat a second time or at least have a fourth innings target that is as low as possible.
"Ashwell and I managed to give us a useful lead of 50," commented De Villiers (by the close the lead was, in fact, 54 with four wickets in hand). "But it was a pity that I got out just before the close.
"We now need Ashwell to take charge of putting together a couple more 50 partnerships
"We still have Mark Boucher at the crease and Johan Botha, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel have all shown their batting ability before on this tour.
"What is certain is this wicket is going to get more and more difficult as the match progresses, particularly on days four and five, and we won't want to have to chase as much as 200 in our final innings.
"We would like to keep it below 150 if possible."
The sixth-wicket partnership of 134 was five runs better than the 129 that Prince and Boucher put on together at Sahara Park Newlands in 2008.
It was a masterly display of patience by the two batsmen on a pitch that was never easy and against some very testing bowling from the tall left-arm spinner, Sulieman Benn.
Benn had claimed the key wickets of Graeme Smith (70 off 115 balls, 9 fours) and Jacques Kallis (43 off 86 balls, 4 fours) on either side of lunch and that made it all the more important for De Villiers and Prince to claim the initiative back.
Benn's dismissal of Kallis was a particularly intelligent piece of bowling. The previous ball had spit and turned sharply and it was not surprising that Kallis left the next one alone but it came in with the arm on the identical trajectory to hit the stumps.
The afternoon session was the pivotal one of the Test match to date and De Villiers and Prince were only able to scratch 58 runs together.
But it was what the former coach, Mickey Arthur, would have called an investment session and the pair broke loose after tea when they scored 58 runs in the hour.
The partnership was not without its drama. De Villiers came perilously close to being dismissed twice and there were also two run out opportunities which the West Indies were not able to exploit.
De Villiers was finally dismissed for 73 and the fact that it took him 189 balls (6 boundaries) was an indication of how hard he and Prince had had to work. In the process he recorded his 1 000th Test run against the West Indies.
Prince batted through to the close (55 off 173 balls, 3x4) and he will spearhead the Proteas' bid for a match-winning lead on Monday.