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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 18:26 GMT
Windies bowlers not up to scratch
Colin Croft writes for BBC Sport
By Colin Croft
Former West Indies Test player

The final match between West Indies and South Africa was Test cricket as it is supposed to be.

There was magnificent batting from both teams and great bowling from the hosts.

Unfortunately, though, the West Indies' bowlers were poor and the result was beyond contention once South Africa made 604-6.

If West Indies lose the forthcoming home series against England more questions will be asked
South Africa's attack, especially man of the series Makaya Ntini, who took 29 wickets, and Andre Nel, with 21, showed the West Indians how to bowl properly on such a pitch.

Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, suggested that on this pitch a team should make no more than 250 or 300 batting first, if the opposition's bowlers operated well.

Ironically, at the close of day one, his side had 302 with a single wicket down.

For the tourists, the late selection of Merv Dillon for what, if I had my way, should be his last Test, did not help in any way.

Merv Dillon
Dillon's controversial late inclusion made no difference
Dillon's name was added to the team sheet in place of Sanford by Lara at the last minute, without clearance from the selectors.

The captain believed the taller Dillon would get extra bounce, even though Sanford was one of the leading wicket-takers on the tour.

But with just five minutes' notice, Dillon was never going to be prepared.

It is now time to dispense with the services of Vasbert Drakes - another player who contributes very little and does not seem to improve any.

Opening batsman Darren Ganga has contributed little, and actually looks shell-shocked, since making two centuries against Australia early last year.

Nel - straight from the wedding chapel - and Ntini, used day three to emphasize their captain's earlier suggestion, both men extracting bounce, pace and lateral movement from the pitch.

With the strip getting gradually better, Lara became increasingly optimistic, saying: "We need at least three separate centuries from our batsmen." He got two.

Corey Collymore and Brian Lara (right)
Lara will come under pressure if West Indies lose to England

Nel dismissed Lara, Ridley Jacobs and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, all left-handers, with identical deliveries, slanted across towards the slip area.

Ntini did similarly to the right-handers, his aggression, fitness and know-how allowing him to hit the stumps, and the batsmen too, with alarming regularity and consistency.

The resilience of day four, with Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle both hitting centuries, was wonderful to see but it would never have been enough.

This series be a great eye-opener for the West Indies authorities.

Losing so many players to injuries - and some very odd injuries too - would suggest preparation is not taken seriously enough.

Even with a massive touring contingent, including a physiotherapist, a physical trainer, a fast-bowling coach, a head coach and the manager they cannot seem to get it right.

Lara will survive as skipper, if only because there are no candidates to replace him.

Vice-captain Ramnaresh Sarwan is learning but not yet ready while Ridley Jacobs cannot be sure of his place in the long-term.

If West Indies lose the forthcoming home series against England, though, more questions will be asked.

Lara is producing with the bat but the pressure if growing on him to produce as captain too.


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