Cricket NZ v SA

South Africa bounce back

After a horrendous performance in the first Test, South Africa put up a great show in Christchurch to level the series. The South Africans have started to fight back and this would help them to flourish in the coming days. Meanwhile, a Test series win against South Africa still remains a dream for the Kiwis.

On Day 1, Sarel Erwee scored his first Test century in his second match and shared in South Africa’s best opening partnership since December 2020 as the visitors defied the odds while batting first at the Hagley Oval.

Dean Elgar became the first captain to win the toss and choose to put runs on the board at this venue, and only the fourth in the last 45 Tests hosted in New Zealand to make that decision. The move was particularly forthright after South Africa were bowled out for 95 and 111 in the first Test, but paid off as they scored more than they did in both innings combined.

On a surface that was much less green than the first Test, New Zealand’s five-pronged pace attack did not find the same seam movement they did last week and appeared far less threatening.

They stuck to their mostly short-of-a-length strategy and found swing through the air but South Africa’s more cautious and determined strategy served them well. The run-rate hovered under three an over and New Zealand sent down 31 maidens in their 90 overs. Pressure was never far away but South Africa found ways to cope.

Elgar set the tone when he fronted up and survived against Tim Southee, who had several opportunities to snag him. He beat Elgar’s inside edge several times and then found it, in his fourth over, but the edge fell short of first slip. That was the first of three chances New Zealand created for Daryl Mitchell but all of them evaded him.

Erwee started in much quieter fashion. He scored just five runs off the first 25 balls he faced before almost losing his leg stump to an inswinging yorker from Southee. His first convincing shot was a punch through square leg off Kyle Jamieson. It took him until the 16th over to draw level with Elgar in runs terms, on 17, but once he overtook the captain, he grew in confidence. He showed off a series of drives and brought up 50 off Colin de Grandhomme with a shot that went wide of point for four and took South Africa to lunch on 80 without loss. It was only the second time in 11 Tests at this ground that the batting team has gone to lunch without losing a wicket.

The pair became the first visiting duo to share a century stand in the first innings of a Test in New Zealand since Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs in 2004 when Erwee drove Southee past mid-off for four.

On Day 2, a dozen wickets fell on the second day in Christchurch as South Africa squandered and then seized the advantage in a must-win match. Resuming on 238 for 3, the visitors would have been eyeing a total above 400, but lost 5 for 45 as clouds rolled in and offered the seam movement that had been missing on the opening day.

On 302 for 8, even 320 seemed a distance away but Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj put on a 62-run ninth-wicket stand to take South Africa past 350.

Then, Kagiso Rabada and Jansen ran through New Zealand’s top six to leave them on 91 for 5 but a counter-attacking half-century from Colin de Grandhomme, off 36 balls, took New Zealand eight runs away from avoiding the follow-on.

On Day 3, Colin de Grandhomme’s second Test century and a 133-run sixth-wicket stand with Daryl Mitchell allowed New Zealand to chip away at a sizeable South African first innings score, but they eventually conceded a 71-run read.

This was mainly due to Kagiso Rabada’s 11th Test five-for, which included two wickets in two balls, on a cold, cloudy, seamer-friendly day in Christchurch. Then with the bat, South Africa lost five wickets but had stretched their lead and firmly be in control of the Test.

South Africa were rescued by a half-century stand from Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma after they slumped to 38 for 3 before tea. Then Neil Wagner, as he often does, broke open the door for New Zealand in a terrific spell of short-pitched bowling to dismiss the set batters to bring the hosts back in contention.

Kagiso Rabada headlined the fourth day with a career-best 47 off 34 balls with the bat and then became the first South African bowler to dismiss both openers in both innings in a Test since Morne Morkel in 2010.

South Africa would have had thoughts of wrapping up the match early when Rabada had Will Young caught at gully off the third ball and Tom Latham caught at short leg in his second over. Keshav Maharaj bowled Henry Nicholls in the 12th over, but a 56-run fourth-wicket partnership between Daryl Mitchell and Devon Conway took the match into the fifth day.

Despite the magnitude of their task, New Zealand may have taken heart from the way South Africa batted on the fourth day. After their run rate hovered under three for most of the match, they scored 214 runs in 47 overs, at a rate of 4.55.

Kyle Verreynne, playing in his sixth Test, scored his first century, and first score over 30 in the format. Verreynne’s century is the fourth-highest for a South African wicketkeeper in an away Test.

He shared in 78-run sixth and eighth wicket stands with Wiaan Mulder and Rabada respectively and a 32-run last-wicket partnership with Lutho Sipamla to extend South Africa’s lead to 425.

South Africa maintained their unbeaten series record over New Zealand, levelled the two-match series 1-1 and became the first team to win a match at the Hagley Oval after choosing to bat first. They set New Zealand a target of 426 and bowled them out for 227 to stage a remarkable comeback after losing the first match by an innings and 276 runs, their second-biggest defeat ever.

New Zealand lost 6 for 61 in uncharacteristically careless fashion on the final day and were dismissed nine balls after an early tea was taken, with rain in the air.

On a pitch that had something in it for the quicks throughout the five days, Kagiso Rabada finished with eight wickets in the match, including his 11th career five-for and Marco Jansen with seven, while Keshav Maharaj, the only spinner playing across both XIs, took a decisive 3 for 75 in New Zealand’s second innings.

Note: Inputs from ESPNcricinfo