The Proteas no longer have a chance to claim the ceremonial mace as top Test side, but they came to New Zealand to win. The South African quicks battered the Kiwi batsmen into submission after Smith put the hosts in to bat. By close of play on the first day some of the momentum had been squandered, setting the stage for another hard-fought Test. By PAUL BERKOWITZ.
After a cold, miserable and ultimately frustrating opening test in Dunedin the Proteas were happy to move to Hamilton. Warmer weather awaited the tourists plus the promise of a green pitch with more swinging balls.
Despite (or possibly due to) warnings from the groundsman that the pitch’s demons would be exorcised early on in the match Smith decided to put the Kiwis in. The overcast weather had the Proteas hoping for a bowlers’ paradise. Unfortunately, it became apparent early in the first session that the expected seam movement off the pitch was not prodigious and the swing on offer was limited.
Philander and Steyn exploited what lateral movement was to be had, and Philander accounted for Nicol early with a bit of away movement, but the more experienced New Zealand batsmen were not troubled by the seam and swing after the opening bowlers’ spells. Smith changed the plans a bit by getting Morkel and Steyn to dig the ball in shorter, and some good hostile bowling plus a disciplined performance by Kallis helped to maintain the pressure.
There were few rewards on offer in the first two sessions. Steyn bowled Guptill off an inside edge, but it was more of an assisted suicide than a targeted hit. Guptill hung his bat out to dry and the wicket was against the run of play. McCullum and Taylor once again steadied the Black Caps’ ship, guiding them to 62/2 by lunch and to 94/2 by a rain-interrupted tea.
Unfortunately for long-suffering Kiwi supporters, McCullum and Taylor once again threw away their wickets by slashing at balls that were too short and fast to be given the treatment. By the end of the fiftieth over New Zealand were 133/4, Steyn and Philander had two wickets apiece and the door to New Zealand’s notoriously long tail had been kicked in. Two overs later the hosts were 137/7 and collapsing faster than the Eastern Cape public education system.
The New Zealand innings was given a veneer of respectability by a delightful little 33-run eighth-wicket cameo courtesy of Kruger van Wyk and Mark Gillespie, but that only lasted until Morkel and Tahir mopped up the tail. New Zealand ended their first innings with only 185 runs on the board.
Unluckily for the Proteas, despite the rain-shortened day, there was still enough time near the close of play for Chris Martin to account for Smith and Steyn. The visitors ended the day two wickets down for 27 runs. The advantage is still with the Proteas, but the fight is a lot more even now. DM
Photo: South Africa's Vernon Philander celebrates with Hashim Amla after dismissing Ross Taylor on day one of the second international cricket test match against New Zealand, in Hamilton 15 March 2012. REUTERS/Nigel Marple.