Cape Town: Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher ground out an unbeaten 87-run partnership to enable South Africa to seize a slight advantage as the second day of the second Test against the West Indies developed into a war of attrition at Newlands Thursday.
South Africa were 218 for five at the close in reply to the West Indies total of 243.
"It's a tough Test match," said South African coach Mickey Arthur. "Runs are at a premium and the third and fourth innings are going to be really challenging. It's going to go down to the wire."
South Africa had been in trouble at 131 for five after West Indian vice-captain Dwayne Bravo picked up three wickets in a marathon spell of medium-paced swing bowling.
With fast bowler Fidel Edwards off the field with an injured right hamstring, Bravo bowled unchanged into a stiff south-easterly wind from before lunch until after tea to take three for 46 in 24 overs.
"We were a bowler short and I knew it would take something special," said Bravo. "All the bowlers gave a big effort."
But Prince and Boucher gradually wore down a depleted attack. It was desperately slow at times, with only 41 runs scored in the first 26 overs after tea on a slow pitch with a slow, soft outfield which made boundaries difficult to achieve.
Prince and Boucher picked up the tempo as the bowlers tired, scoring 52 runs in the last ten overs of the day. Prince finished on 55 not out and Boucher on 35.
That the West Indies, who lead the three-match series 1-0, were still in the match was mainly due to Bravo.
His persistent accuracy was rewarded in his 15th over when he claimed the key wicket of Jacques Kallis, who was caught behind for 36. He trapped Hashim Amla leg before for 32 with an in-swinger in his next over and had AB de Villiers caught behind shortly after tea.
Jerome Taylor also bowled well for the West Indies, dismissing both openers, Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith, at a cost of 25 runs in an unchanged spell of nine overs either side of lunch. He finished the day with two for 45.
Bravo said his team would seek an early breakthrough Friday after taking the second new ball shortly before the close. "One more wicket and we'll be into the tail."
Bravo vowed that South Africa would have to fight to make the 25 runs that separate the first innings scores. "Then it will be up to our batters to put a total on the board and put South Africa under pressure. They have shown they have not been playing well under pressure."
A West Indian team spokesman said Edwards was unlikely to play any further part in the match.
South Africa also had a fast bowling casualty in Dale Steyn, but Arthur said a strained right hamstring was a minor injury and he was confident Steyn would be able to bowl in the second innings.
Steyn did not take the field when South Africa took the last two West Indian wickets cheaply at the start of the day but Arthur said the move was "precautionary."
Taylor dismissed both opening batsman, Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith, but Kallis and Amla put on 59 in 80 minutes for the third wicket. They appeared to be playing South Africa into a strong position before Bravo's triple strike.
"The West Indies bowled really well and showed a lot of patience," said Arthur.