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Cricket news - South Africa's superiority writ large in St Lucia

Van der Dussen and Rabada made 70 for the eighth-wicket stand after South Africa slipped to 73 for 7 at one stage.

Van der Dussen and Rabada made 70 for the eighth-wicket stand after South Africa slipped to 73 for 7 at one stage.

The eyes had it. The West Indians' were ablaze with the dream of a fanciful victory even as it slunk further away in truth's rearview mirror with every run South Africa scored. The visitors' were glazed with the conviction that they had enough to win even before they had to put up with the pantomime of batting again.

It's the lot of teams whose glory has faded to have to clutch at the second-hand straws of relatively minor accomplishments; to remind themselves of who and what they were when Viv was Richards and maroon meant magnificence. Or to fool themselves that those days are closer than they might appear. So the efforts of Kemar Roach and Kyle Mayers, who took seven wickets between them in St Lucia on Sunday, seemed to be celebrated as if they had shared a double hattrick.

But South Africa were not fooled, perhaps because they have a fresher grip on their troubles. Or, conversely, because they don't struggle to remember how much better they used to be. That wouldn't have been difficult while the Windies were reducing them to 73/7, the result of a crash of 6/40. Then Rassie van der Dussen and Kagiso Rabada yanked all concerned back to reality with a stand of 70 to push the lead to within 10 runs of 300. It should prove the point that the partnership was not only the biggest of innings but more than any pair of West Indians have managed in the series.

Van der Dussen's 75 not out was his sixth half-century and his second-highest score in his 16th Test innings. His heave over backward square leg off Jayden Seales was only his second six in the 1,413 balls he has faced at this level. To negate the seam movement and swing that has made batting in St Lucia challenging, he planted his back foot a good 15 centimetres outside the crease. Rabada is no mug in pads but he's not in Van der Dussen's league. Even so, his career-best 40 rippled with drives rifled through the covers.

More telling yet in the tale of South Africa's superiority was the dismissal that ended their innings. Only once in 16 trips to the crease, eight of them ended, has Lungi Ngidi reached double figures. Never had he faced as many as the 20 balls he saw on Sunday. But he charged down the pitch to Kraigg Brathwaite as confidently as if he were within a stroke of earning a half-century - and was easily stumped. When the opposition's No. 11 bats like Viv himself, you know you're in trouble.

Just seven times in the 75 Tests the Windies have won batting second have they chased down targets of more than 300. Only three of those have been achieved at home, and four were registered in the previous millennium. Or when the Windies were still a team who could beat you no matter what. Those days are long gone.

South Africa will, in all likelihood and weather permitting, steam to a 2-0 series success sometime on Monday. It's only good manners to try and play nice and pretend that this is still a contest, and perhaps that's what Roach was doing when he said during his television interview: "It's all about bringing ourselves back into the game ... It's about staying in."

But all of us know it isn't about that. Rather, it's about South Africa taking the 10 wickets they need to win. The prospect of West Indies scoring the 309 more runs they require is not part of any serious discussion around what might happen on the last two days of the match. There is more chance of the weather getting in the visitors' way than their opponents: the forecast is clear until Thursday, but in the Caribbean, you can never be certain.

Fact and fiction aren't always clearly separate in cricket. But sometimes people say they are in with a chance when it is plain as day that they are not. It would be rude and heartless to tell them they aren't. Especially when they are excellent hosts, as West Indians invariably are. Happily, South Africans make good guests. So they are unlikely to win without showing the home side due respect.

There's a fair bit of cricket still to be played in this match, but little about the outcome remains uncertain. All involved in St Lucia on Sunday knew that the script had been received and rehearsed, and they were ready for their close-up. You could see that on the scorecard and on the field. But, most of all, the eyes had it.