New Zealand 47 for 6 (Watling 15*, Bracewell 3*) trail South Africa 525 for 8 dec (du Plessis 137, Amla 110, Elgar 103*, Bracewell 3-94) by 478 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Utter dominance from South Africa. That should not be a surprise, but it should be admired. Say what you like about New Zealand, and their batting was again exposed in painful fashion late on the second day, but South Africa are producing some irresistible Test cricket.
This time a batsman who began with a pair two Tests ago scored a maiden hundred and another who has eased into Test cricket as though born to play it scored his second in four matches. Then the premier fast bowler in the world began to bully New Zealand’s top order before a man slotting back into the side claimed a brace. Even South Africa’s spinner was in on the mayhem with two wickets in his first over. A scuffle in the stands shortly before the close provided more of a fight than what was in the middle.
By the close, New Zealand were reduced to a hopeless 47 for 6, with two wickets for a Dale Steyn, Rory Kleinveldt and Robin Peterson, in response to South Africa’s imposing 525 for 8. At least they made it past 45. Graeme Smith did not have to bat as long as he did, but wanted to give Dean Elgar the chance of his maiden hundred which came shortly after tea with a lofted and priceless boundary against Jeetan Patel.
It did not take long for the game to look very different with the ball in South African hands. Martin Guptill was dropped at second slip by Jacques Kallis in the first over – South Africa’s catching is their only blemish in this series – but it was not long before he offered another off Steyn which Alviro Petersen grabbed. It continued Guptill’s struggles in white: his last seven innings now read 11, 13, 4, 11, 1, 0 and 1.
There were suggestions last week that Steyn operated within himself at Newlands – he did not have to push too hard – but here the speedgun was peaking at 147kph. At the other end Morne Morkel roughed up Kane Williamson with two painful blows in the ribs, leading to a weak push outside off to give Steyn his second. It was the perfect example of a fast-bowling double-act.
And just because Vernon Philander was absent it did not mean any breather for a battered New Zealand. Kleinveldt, the memories of a torrid debut at Brisbane rapidly fading, produced an unplayable lifter to take Dean Brownlie’s glove and then trapped Daniel Flynn with a full delivery he played around. Flynn review. It was plumb.
Could it get worse? Yes. Peterson tossed his second ball wide and Brendon McCullum, who until then had shown considerable grit, could not resist a drive which he only edged very thinly to slip as it spun from the footmarks. Colin Munro, on debut, then played forward to his first ball and gave a simple inside edge via his pad to short leg. The hat-trick ball spun past Doug Bracewell’s edge. It would have been no surprise if it had taken it.
The intense closing period was in contrast to a largely sedate day with South Africa, as is their forte, producing an efficient, professional, display with the bat. Elgar, who made a jittery 21 at Newlands last week as he attempted to secure a middle-order spot vacated by Jacques Rudolph, was again nervous at the start of his innings but this time managed to ride through a tricky period. A strong pull off Neil Wagner settled him and he then began to expand against Patel.
It was not always pretty from Elgar, especially outside off stump, but he ensured he did not waste his opportunity against a tiring attack. For a while before the interval it appeared time was not in Elgar’s side and he started to attack before tea to try and reach the landmark – including a six over long-on against Wagner – but with more than three days remaining it would have been a ruthlessly harsh captain not to give him another opportunity.
Du Plessis was also stuck in the nineties over an interval. He went to lunch on 99 having played out consecutive maidens from Munro, but he must have been at ease during the break as the first ball he faced on resumption, from Patel, he drove into the stands to bring up his hundred. His lofted driving was a feature of the innings as he played them against seam and spin.
Du Plessis showed during his epic rearguard in Adelaide that he has a game that can adapt to various situations despite him having made his name in the one-day arena. With the ball moving, he defended solidly, left well and waited for the poor delivery having regained his composure after a nasty blow in a sensitive area in the first over of the day from Bracewell. As ever, it provided amusement to those who sat in the comfort of the dressing room.
There was a hint of desperation when New Zealand reviewed an lbw shout from Wagner with him on 80. He eventually became Munro’s first Test wicket, after a stand of 131 with Elgar, when he got a leading edge high into the off side when aiming over leg. The dismissal saw his average plummeting down to 111.25. It has been one of most serene starts to a Test career in recent memory.
The opening ten overs of the day had brought just 11 runs and the prized wicket of Hashim Amla as New Zealand probed away under cloudy skies. After passing the outside edge on a number of occasions, it was Boult’s worst delivery of his opening spell which broke through when Amla flicked at a ball down the leg side and nicked through to BJ Watling ending a stand of 113. Boult’s celebration amounted to a sheepish grin, but after seeing Amla dropped on 48 yesterday, even removing him for 110 will have brought a sense of relief.
Yet there was a sense of inevitably that it would be a declaration to end the innings. The problem for New Zealand was the support for Bracewell and Boult. Wagner proved expensive, Patel, although finding turn, was not consistent enough to maintain the pressure and Munro’s wickets were gifted by batsmen aiming to accelerate. Ross Taylor’s absence has left a vast hole in the batting, but Tim Southee has also been sorely missed with the ball.