Port Elizabeth, December 30:

New West Indian captain Chris Gayle hailed a “thrilling” win against South Africa as a career highlight and said the challenge for his young team was to continue to improve.

“It’s really thrilling to beat South Africa in four days,” he said after a 128-run triumph in the first Test at St George’s Park here on Saturday. Asked whether he had been involved in a better West Indian win, he said: “It’s the best one so far because we have a lot of young players, inexperienced guys. It’s really pleasing to see the way they operate under pressure.”

It was the first away Test win for the West Indies, other than against minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, since they beat England by an innings and 93 runs in Birmingham in June 2000. Set 389 to win, South Africa succumbed to consistent pressure from the West Indian fast bowlers and were bowled out for 260.

After years of being pilloried as world cricket’s most prominent under-performers, Gayle said leading in a series was a new challenge for the West Indies. “The challenge is how we cope with it. We will have to stick to basics and play some good cricket,” said Gayle.

South African captain Graeme Smith said his team needed to bounce back, as they had done in home series against India and Pakistan last season when on both occasions they clinched the series by winning the final match. “We let ourselves down on day one when we allowed them to bat the way they did and then we didn’t bat well enough in our first innings,” said Smith.

South Africa were never in contention on Saturday after slumping to 45 for four, although Jacques Kallis (85) and AB de Villiers (60) provided resistance in a fifth wicket stand of 112, while Andre Nel (34) and Dale Steyn (33 not out) delayed the end with a hard-hitting ninth wicket partnership of 67. When the final wicket fell, the West Indians gathered with arms linked and danced in the middle of the field.