MOUNT OF PAIN
Inexperienced Proteas no match for rampant Black Caps suffering heavy first Test defeat
New Zealand 511 (Rachin Ravindra 240, Kane Williamson 118, Neil Brand 6-119) and 179-4 declared (Williamson 109, Brand 2-52) beat South Africa 162 (Keegan Petersen 45, Matt Henry 3-31, Mitch Santner 3-34) and 247 (David Bedingham 87, Kyle Jamieson 4-58, Santner 3-59) by 281 runs.
From the moment the Proteas squad to New Zealand was named it was inevitable that losing the first Test in Mount Maunganui wasn’t a case of “if” it happened, but rather of, “by how much”.
As it turned out the margin was a whopping 281 runs.
This was New Zealand’s second-biggest Test win in terms of runs and their widest over South Africa by some margin. The Blacks Caps’ previous biggest margin of victory by this measurement over South Africa was 137 runs at the Wanderers in 1994.
Had New Zealand enforced the follow-on with a 349-run first-innings lead on day three the outcome would inevitably have been the same – a heavy defeat, and the match might have not made it to a fourth day.
But Kiwi skipper Tim Southee asked his batters to have another go, probably as much to satisfy broadcasters by taking the match into day four, as it was to give his bowling unit a break.
New Zealand’s win was built on Rachin Ravindra’s magnificent 240 in the first innings, as well as centuries in both innings by Kane Williamson (118 and 109), while their bowling unit shared the wickets around.
“It was a pretty good surface for the batters to set it up for the bowlers to take 20 wickets,” Southee said.
“The guys had great preparation three days before the Test, lots of focus on what we were trying to do. We knew they were going to come out fighting. When you come to the Mount you expect something different and some spin later on rather than early.”
Southee set the Proteas an impossible 529 to win with two full days remaining after declaring their second innings at 179 for four. Big seamer Kyle Jamieson took four for 68 as the Proteas were bowled out for 247 in their second innings.
New Zealand quickly reduced the Proteas to five for two, with skipper Neil Brand and fellow opener Eddie Moore both out inside four overs.
Raynard van Tonder (31 off 83 balls) and Zubayr Hamza (36 from 92 balls) offered some resistance with a 63-run third-wicket stand.
Van Tonder fell shortly after lunch, edging Jamieson to Tom Latham at slip. Two overs later Hamza gave his wicket away with a mistimed pull shot that was gobbled up comfortably by Southee.
It was the trend of the match – the Proteas losing wickets in clusters.
David Bedingham, the promising right-hander, offered some resistance, scoring 87 from 96 balls as he took on the Kiwis’ short bowling. Bedingham and Keegan Petersen added 105 for the fifth wicket, but again when one fell, the other followed soon after.
After being frustrated by Bedingham and Petersen’s resistance, New Zealand decided to attack Bedingham with the short ball. Instead of folding, Bedingham took it as a signal to attack, hitting Matt Henry for four consecutive boundaries off a quartet of bouncers.
Bedingham then took on Southee shortly before tea, hitting him for 28 runs off 10 balls. After an agonisingly slow period in the 75 minutes after lunch, the Proteas scored 71 off 10 overs prior to tea.
But the good times – as rare as they were for the visitors in the match – did not last.
Jamieson immediately delivered another short ball in the first over after tea, and Bedingham, emboldened by his earlier dominance, couldn’t resist taking it on despite four fielders stationed deep on the leg side.
He top-edged his shot to deep backward square leg, and Mitch Santner took the catch, leaving a distraught Bedingham 13 runs short of a maiden Test century.
“We were expecting this short-ball tactic at some stage,” Bedginham said. “It’s something we practised and all the batters had a session working on how they wanted to go about it (handling the short ball).
“My method was the one I used out there today. In the first over Matt Henry bowled short, I was blocking and actually feeling quite uncomfortable doing that.
“So I said to myself that I had practised (taking it on) so ‘go for it’. I think it’s quite gutsy because if you get out early playing like that it won’t look great. But I said to myself ‘it’s fine and I’ll take it on the chin’.
“I’m glad it worked for an extended period of time but obviously I’m disappointed in the way I went out as well.”
Petersen (16) followed in the very next Jamieson over, caught at deep backward square leg by Ravindra. From then on it was just a matter of time before the Blacks Caps mopped up the rest.
Lack of experience
The Proteas had six debutants in the starting XI, which made it enough of a challenge under any circumstances. Winning the toss and choosing to bowl though, was a strange decision considering the Bay Oval pitch, to anyone with a smattering of local knowledge, looked perfect for batting first.
And so it proved. New Zealand piled on 511 in their first innings after toughing out a tricky first half an hour on day one where new cap Tshepo Moreki asked some tough questions in his first spell.
Moreki trapped Devin Conway leg before for a duck, in his first over in Test cricket. He wouldn’t have asked for a better start.
He initially troubled Williamson with some tight bowling, but midway through the first session New Zealand’s batters were on top and the Blacks Caps stayed there the entire match.
Williamson and Ravindra rode their luck as the Proteas also dropped several catches on day one, but overall they looked unflustered.
South Africa skipper Brand rued the dropped catches on day one that handed lives to Williamson and Ravindra, which was inexcusable at any level.
“It’s very deflating,” Brand, who took six for 118 in the first innings with his left-arm spin, said.
“I felt on day one, we were in the game there and if you take those two chances, you never know what will happen. But yeah, completely outplayed by a very good New Zealand team.
“It’s back to the drawing board now and hopefully we can do better in the next Test (in Hamilton). We’re raring to get back for the second Test.
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“Taking six wickets was a massive honour for me but my currency is runs, so I’m disappointed to not contribute there.”
Southee, having first-hand experience of South Africa turning things around when they lost by an innings and 236 runs in Christchurch two years ago, only to lose the second Test, expected a fightback.
“I’m pretty happy. I think any time you win a Test match inside four days it’s always pretty pleasing,” Southee said. “We know that any South African team is going to fight, they are very passionate people.”
Despite the challenges that the Proteas face on this tour, Bedingham was not raising a white flag just yet.
“I won’t look at the negative side because we still have another Test to play and hopefully win,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll take a lot of lessons from this Test. For most of us it was a debut or close to a debut Test and we will learn.” DM