Teenager Jayden Seales’ Test match debut proved to be the lone highlight for the West Indies on an otherwise dismal opening day of the first Test against South Africa at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia, yesterday, and West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite has already labelled the youngster “a special talent”.
After winning the toss, Brathwaite was made to rue his decision to bat first as the hosts suffered a batting collapse that saw them crash to 97 all out before tea with the South African fast bowlers Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi grabbing four for 35 and five for 19 respectively.
In reply, Seales grabbed three for 34, including two late in the day, as South Africa reached 128 for four at stumps, already leading by 31 runs.
Brathwaite said that while the hosts would have ended the day better than they started it, they will have a lot of ground to make up with the bat in the second innings.
“I thought the pitch looked good and obviously South Africa bowled well, and we didn’t bat well, so you know we’ve got to make up in the second innings; it’s as simple as that.” The WI skipper added: “Obviously we played some loose shots, but it happens. It wouldn’t always be perfect. As batsmen we know we played at some balls we probably shouldn’t have played at, and we probably should have left a little better, but we know what we’ve got to do in the second innings.”
As for Seales, Brathwaite said: “I know he’s a special talent to be honest and he showed it today.”
After a shaky start with the loss of skipper Dean Elgar (zero) in the first over by Kemar Roach, the visitors settled in to reach 30 for one at the tea break.
The 19-year-old Seales had to wait until after tea to get his chance, but he made an almost immediate impression, striking with his fifth ball to get rid of South African debutant Keegan Petersen (19) who edged a rising ball to Jason Holder at second slip.
Seales tested the batsmen in his first spell of 5-2-10-1 but was unable to make a second breakthrough.
Aiden Markram and Rassie Van Der Dussen then dug in to ensure the visitors took the lead late in the day.
Markram’s pulled four off Seales drew the scores level but the young pacer’s menacing off-stump line eventually paid dividends, with Markram edging to wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva for 60 with the score on 113 for three.
Seales could have had the other South African debutant Kyle Verreynne in the same over after the batsman slashed one that just got past a diving Shai Hope at gully for a fortuitous boundary. But Verreynne (six) couldn’t resist going after Seales in his next over, slashing at another ball wide of the off stump but this time getting a thick edge that was easily taken by Da Silva. But that would be all the success the hosts would get on the first day.
Quinton De Kock was not out one four at the close while Van Der Dussen ended on 34 not out.
Seales said that while he had a few nerves making his debut, he was happy to contribute to the team’s fightback with the ball and insisted that the Windies are still in the match.
“I don’t think we are out of the game. Today is just the first day. We didn’t bat as we wanted to, but I think we pulled it back well with the ball today (yesterday).”
Of his first Test wicket, he said: “That was an amazing feeling. From the time he (Petersen) edged the ball, I knew he was out because Jason is very safe in slips, so I was just celebrating from the time it hit the edge.”
Asked what he would have learned from his first day in Test cricket, Seales said: “Just to remain as consistent as possible, try and create pressure and don’t try anything different and I will get wickets.”
Earlier when the West Indies batted, the experiment of partnering Brathwaite with Shai Hope at the top of the order seemed to be working, with the pair surviving a testing opening 45 minutes before first change South African speedster Nortje came into the attack to put the visitors on top.
The right-arm pacer struck in his second over when he clipped the top of Hope’s off-stump to end the opening stand. Hope made just 15 on his return to the Test team.
The West Indies skipper, who also made 15, got a similar delivery angling in and shouldered arms with the ball going on to clip the off stump as the hosts slipped to 31 for two before the first drinks break.
With the departure of these two however, the innings went into permanent decline, West Indies recording their lowest-ever score against South Africa,
It was left for Seales to lighten the mood.