New Zealand pile on relentless agony against floundering Proteas to lead by 528 runs

New Zealand pile on relentless agony against floundering Proteas to lead by 528 runs
Matt Henry of New Zealand celebrates after dismissing Ruan de Swardt of the Proteas during day three of the First Test on 6 February, 2024. (Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Proteas are on the brink of a massive defeat in the first Test against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui.

New Zealand 511 and 179-4 (Kane Williamson 109) lead South Africa 162 (Keegan Petersen 45, Matt Henry 3-31, Mitch Santner 3-34) by 528 runs.

There have been many great Test teams through almost 150 years of the long format of the game, and none have scored more than 418 to win a Test.

The callow Proteas team in New Zealand, with a staggering six debutants, are not a great Test team. They are barely even a Test team, considering at least nine of them wouldn’t be playing if South Africa was at full strength.

That may sound harsh, and it’s certainly no fault of the players selected that they are in this ugly predicament, but there is no other way to cut it, they are staring down the barrel of a record defeat.

New Zealand lead by 528 runs after day three. The home team went to stumps at 179 for four thanks to 109 from Kane Williamson — his second century of the match — in their second innings after posting 511 in their first dig.

In between the Proteas were bowled out for a meagre 162 on a pitch that has plenty of runs in it. Keegan Petersen top-scored with 45 and David Bedingham contributed 32 while New Zealand’s bowlers shared the wickets.

Keegan Petersen of the Proteas

Keegan Petersen of the Proteas bats during day three of the First Test against New Zealand at Bay Oval on 6 February 2024 in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand. (Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images)

South Africa started the day on 80 for four with Petersen and Bedingham at the crease. They needed a big partnership but Bedingham, who looked the part on day two, was less comfortable in the morning as the New Zealand pace attack bowled accurately.

Bedingham eventually played a loose shot, top-edging an attempted pull where Mitch Santner took the catch off the Matt Henry’s seam. It was the first of three wickets for the addition of 47 runs to fall in the session.

Petersen batted stubbornly and defiantly until lunch. But after the break, he lost patience against the spin of Rachin Ravindra and popped a leading edge to mid-on where Williamson took an easy catch. It marked the end of the resistance and the rest of the wickets fell quickly.

Despite being 149 runs short of the follow-on target and 349 runs behind after the first innings, New Zealand skipper Tim Southee decided against enforcing the follow-on.

It was an unsurprising decision with so much time left in the contest. Including this match, New Zealand have four Tests in quick succession, with Australia due in the country when the Proteas depart. Keeping the bowling unit fresh with their old rivals due shortly, is clearly part of the longer-term thinking for the Kiwis.

Kane Williamson of New Zealand.

Kane Williamson of New Zealand. (Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Williamson stars

Black Caps star batter Williamson vindicated the decision and scored 109 in his second knock, to go with his 118 in the first innings. It was his 31st Test century and he became only the fifth New Zealander to score two centuries in a match after Glenn Turner, Geoff Howarth, Andrew Jones and Peter Fulton.

Williams paced his second innings more urgently, scoring his runs off only 132 balls. His first innings runs were compiled from 289 balls.

It was a testament to his skill and class, as well as an indictment of the Proteas bowling unit, which has lacked any real threats.

Matt Henry of New Zealand

Matt Henry of New Zealand. (Photo: Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Captain Neil Brand claimed six wickets in the first innings with his left-arm spin, but the seam attack has been blunt. Senior bowler Duanne Olivier has barely beaten the bat while debutant medium-fast bowler Tshepo Moreki toiled manfully in tandem with Dane Paterson.

There is no lack of effort but a side missing the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen, Lungi Ngidi, Nandre Burger and Gerald Coetzee in the seam bowling department was always going to struggle.

In command

At stumps on day three New Zealand were comfortably in command and with such a huge lead it would be a surprise if the declaration is not made before the start of play on day four.

Petersen, one of the few Proteas batters to show some fight in the match, expects to bat from the start of play on the fourth day and believes it will be a fight against spin as the wicket dries and cracks form.

“The spinners will be a challenge, but I think we will get a lot of that in the next two days,” Petersen said after the day’s play.

“It’s definitely a wicket that we can look to survive on, but it will be a tough task for two days. That is the hand we have been dealt. We just have to believe that we can get a draw. I think winning is a bit far-fetched.”

As for watching Williamson score his second ton, Petersen thinks he has learned something.

“We’ve seen enough of Kane now, but I watched how he went about his first innings,” Petersen said. “It took a bit of time, which set a template for the rest of us. It’s not a free-flowing wicket, there’s not much in it, but it will take some time and patience to score runs.

“The new guys in the team have all played a lot of first-class cricket. Test cricket is new to all of us really. I haven’t played many Tests and I’m still trying to find my feet, so hopefully we will use this experience to learn from.” DM


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