CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand closed in on a massive victory inside three days in the opening Test against South Africa on Friday after taking a 387-run lead and then reducing the tourists to 34-3 on day two of the contest.
Henry Nicholls struck 105 and Tom Blundell made 96 as the World Test champions amassed 482 all out to effectively bat South Africa out of the contest.
On the back foot since being bundled out for 95 in the first innings, South Africa’s top order collapsed for a second time at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval to finish the day 353 behind.
Temba Bavuma (22) and Rassie van der Dussen (nine) will resume on Saturday hoping to delay an imminent defeat in the first match of the two-Test series.
“It’s been outstanding the whole game and to get three [wickets] tonight was pretty amazing,” Blundell said of their bowling effort. “I think if we can keep this momentum going and put them under pressure, hopefully, fingers crossed, we can wrap it up tomorrow.”
The record first-innings deficit overhauled for victory is 291 by Australia against Sri Lanka in 1992.
South African coach Mark Boucher called it “a tough two days, extremely disappointing,” as his side failed to live up to expectations after their series win against India last month. “In all three disciplines, our batting, our bowling and our fielding has been very disappointing.”
South Africa’s four-man attack without a specialist spinner has looked pedestrian and they also dropped four catches to let New Zealand off the hook.
Nicholls alone was the beneficiary on two such occasions on Thursday and he capitalised on the reprieves to smash his eighth Test century.
Neil Wagner, who had stepped in as nightwatchman on Thursday, set the tone when he tore into the South African attack after New Zealand resumed on 116-3.
Wagner clobbered two sixes and seven boundaries in his entertaining 49 before Kagiso Rabada removed him.
Nicholls could not be denied his hundred though, a milestone the 30-year-old brought up with a square-driven four off Duanne Olivier (3-100).
He fell in Olivier’s next over, edging him to second slip to depart after a fine knock studded with 11 boundaries.
Colin de Grandhomme made a quickfire 45 off 42 balls before New Zealand’s tail stung the tourists.
Having led South Africa’s rout with figures of 7-23, Matt Henry returned to smash 58 not out at number 11, joining a small company of players who have scored a half century and taken seven wickets in the same match.
He and Blundell raised 94 runs for the last wicket, one fewer than South Africa’s first innings total.
Blundell was unlucky to miss out on a hundred, dismissed caught behind for 96 that included 12 boundaries.
“It’s been a bit of lean run for me this season, pretty happy to be out there and spend some time in the middle and to be able to contribute,” Blundell said.
South Africa’s misery was not over and their first four runs cost three wickets when they came out to bat for the second time in the match.
Tim Southee dismissed Sarel Erwee with the second ball of the innings and also removed Aiden Markram, while Henry claimed his eighth wicket of the match when he had touring captain Dean Elgar caught behind for a duck.
SOUTH AFRICA (1st Innings) 95
NEW ZEALAND (1st Innings, overnight 116-3):
T. Latham b Olivier 15
W. Young c Verreynne b Jansen 8
D. Conway b Olivier 36
H. Nicholls c Markram b Olivier 105
N. Wagner c van der Dussen b Rabada 49
D. Mitchell c Elgar b Stuurman 16
T. Blundell c Verreynne b Jansen 96
C. de Grandhomme c Jansen b Markram 45
K. Jamieson c Rabada b Markram 15
T. Southee c Erwee b Rabada 4
M. Henry not out 58
EXTRAS (B-6, LB-16, W-6, NB-7) 35
TOTAL (all out, 117.5 overs) 482
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-18 (Young), 2-36 (Latham), 3-111 (Conway), 4-191 (Wagner), 5-239 (Mitchell), 6-273 (Nicholls), 7-349 (de Grandhomme), 8-368 (Jamieson), 9-388 (Southee).
BOWLING: Rabada 30-6-113-2 (5nb), Stuurman 29-5-124-1 (1w), Jansen 29.5-3-96-2 (1nb), Olivier 21-1-100-3 (5w,1nb), Markram 8-0-27-2
SOUTH AFRICA (2nd Innings):
S. Erwee lbw Southee 0
D. Elgar c Blundell b Henry 0
A. Markram c Mitchell b Southee 2
R. van der Dussen 9
T. Bavuma not out 22
EXTRAS (LB-1) 1
TOTAL (for three wickets; nine overs) 34
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-0 (Erwee), 2-2 (Elgar), 3-4 (Markram).
BOWLING (to-date): Southee 5-1-20-2, Henry 4-1-13-1.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2022