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Windies batsman cut loose to set up last day thriller

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, March 12 (AFP) - Carl Hooper and Ramnaresh Sarwan launched a late assault on South Africa's bowling to leave the West Indies scenting victory at close on the fourth day of the first Test on Monday.

Hooper and Sarwan shared an unbeaten stand of 76 to leave the West Indies 258 runs ahead on 286 for four at stumps at the Bourda ground.

Most of their runs came at the end of a frenetic final session, with both batsmen cutting loose to hammer 62 runs off the final 11 overs of the day.

At close veteran Hooper stood on 31 not out with 20-year-old Sarwan on an unbeaten 71.

Their stand started after the second new ball was due but as in the first innings South African captain Shaun Pollock opted to stay with the old one, with run-scoring having proved difficult on a slow surface.

His decision backfired, though, as Hooper and Sarwan went on the attack.

Earlier, fast bowlers Allan Donald and Makhaya Ntini were the pick of a disciplined bowling combination.

Despite the late run chase, their efforts ensured that West Indies will have to bat on into the final day, reducing the number of overs they will be able to bowl at the South Africans in the final innings.

South Africa missed a chance of a crucial breakthrough when star batsman Lara was dropped before he had scored. Neil McKenzie put down a sharp chance at short leg off left-arm spinner Nicky Boje.

For a while it seemed Lara would make the tourists pay for their lapse. He made 37 of a 50-run stand with Marlon Samuels in 62 minutes but the runs dried up and Lara added only eight more in another 45 minutes before the pressure finally told and he hit a tame catch to extra cover off Makhaya Ntini. He made 45 off 82 balls with five fours.

When Lara came in only 28 runs had been scored in 22 overs and South Africa would have had a triumphant morning if McKenzie had held Laras offering. Lara and Samuels took their third wicket stand to 76, with Samuels playing a secondary role. Samuels struggled to pierce the field and it took him 111 balls to hit his first boundary.

Samuels, 20, went on to reach his second Test fifty off 199 balls but was bowled three balls later by Kallis for 51. He hit five fours.

Sarwan reached his half-century off his 112th ball when he hammered Donald through the covers off the back foot. It was his seventh boundary. He showed more fluency than in the first innings when he struggled to seven off 83 balls.

Hooper survived a confident lbw appeal from the first ball he faced from Kallis.

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