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TEST CRICKET

De Swardt and Von Berg frustrate New Zealand with unbeaten 70-run stand

De Swardt and Von Berg frustrate New Zealand with unbeaten 70-run stand
Proteas All-rounder Ruan de Swardt was 55 not out at the close of play on day one of the second Test against New Zealand at Seddon Park on 13 February 2024 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

South Africa 220-6 (Ruan de Swardt 55*, David Bedingham 39, Rachin Ravindra 3-33) vs New Zealand after day one of the second Test.

A determined, unbeaten 70-run seventh-wicket partnership between Ruan de Swardt (55 not out) and 37-year-old debutant Shaun von Berg (34 not out) ensured the Proteas ended day one of the second Test against New Zealand just about even. 

At 150 for six, South Africa were in trouble, but De Swardt and Von Berg dug in and batted for 27 overs to see their team through to stumps on 220 for six and without further damage. 

New Zealand’s chief wicket-taker was spinner Rachin Ravindra, who claimed three for 33 and accounted for the Proteas middle order. 

Proteas captain Neil Brand won the toss, as he did in the first Test, but this time decided to bat on a Seddon Park wicket that was green, and appeared seamer-friendly. 

Having chosen the opposite route on a wicket with similar appearance in the first Test at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, only to see New Zealand pile on 511, Brand decided to have a bat. 

Left-arm spinner Rachin Ravindra took 3-33 on day one at Seddon Park. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Pitch testing but not unplayable

It wasn’t a bad call as the pitch was testing, but not unplayable. Brand, opening with Clyde Fortuin, looked reasonably comfortable for 40 minutes before he was given out leg before wicket to a good ball from debutant seamer Will O’Rourke.

The Proteas skipper reviewed, but it showed the ball to be clipping the top of middle stump. He scored 25 from 38 balls with five fours.

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Earlier, with the seventh ball of the day, makeshift opener Fortuin, who was promoted up the order with Eddie Moore dropped, was dismissed for a golden duck.

Fortuin attacked Matt Henry’s length ball well outside off-stump and only managed a thick edge to gully where Glenn Phillips took a blinder of a catch diving to his left.

Fortuin could count himself unlucky to be the victim of such a great piece of fielding, but it was a poor shot to a ball that could easily have been left alone. That’s the difference between a genuine opener and a No 7 batting at the top of the order.

Digging in 

Despite the setback, Brand and Raynard van Tonder dug in, with the latter contributing a useful 32 before edging a Neil Wagner delivery to gully where Tom Latham took another good catch.

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Zubayr Hamza looked comfortable on his way to 20 before throwing his wicket away when attempting to slog-sweep Ravindra. He only succeeded in popping the ball up to backward point, where substitute fielder Mitch Santner took a simple catch. 

Not long after Keegan Petersen edged Ravindra to Tim Southee at slip, only adding two runs before David Bedingham again looked assured as he made 39. 

The elegant right-hander was caught in a freakish dismissal as he flicked the ball off his pads, but it landed on his foot and Will Young took the catch to end Bedingham’s two-and-a-half-hour stay.

At that point another sub-200 score looked likely, but De Swardt played with confidence, facing 139 balls and hitting nine fours in his stay. He never looked flustered and Von Berg, who has been around for 17 years in the provincial game, displayed his experience as he offered support.

South Africa’s David Bedingham scored 39 in the first innings on day one of the second Test against New Zealand at Seddon Park in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Half century

De Swardt brought up his half century with a beautiful cover drive to the boundary and saw the team through to stumps. If he and Von Berg can bat for another couple of hours on day two, South Africa could set an imposing first-innings total. 

“It was quite hard graft out there,” De Swardt said. “I thought the New Zealanders bowled pretty well, but for me it was just about getting stuck into them, having that mental toughness and keeping going.

“There’s still quite a bit in the wicket, so if we can bat well tomorrow, get past 300, 350… we’re definitely in with a chance.” DM

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