The start was very promising for the Black Caps, mainly because there was little lateral movement on offer. One can’t blame Smith for inserting the Kiwis in to bat, after winning the toss. He has a potent fast bowling group under his belt and with any indication of swing and seam, he could have chosen to bowl first. He did that and it almost back-fired.
Rob Nicol was an early casualty to the new ball, although the delivery wasn’t a genuinely wicket taking one. He looked to come forward and make a positive front foot stroke, only to end up prodding at one that pitched well short of his feet and swung away. Both Steyn and Philander were looking for the perfect outswinger, from middle and leg to off stump and because of the lack of big lateral movement, strayed a lot of balls onto the batsmen’s pads. There wasn’t any short mid-wicket in position, either, and both the batsmen helped themselves to runs through the on-side. Barry Richards made a valid point saying the knowledge that there wasn’t much swing would have helped the confidence of both the batsmen, and hence help their timing.
I thought Guptill was going to get the big score that would save his test spot for a while. He made a lot of good leaves outside off stump. He clipped all the balls that were directed onto his pads into the gaps on the leg side. Only Kallis troubled him for a few balls, that pitched outside off and seamed in. The gap between his bat and pad was exposed. His inclined bat coming down, was on display. In the end, he perished to a Steyn outswinger, that had a beautiful shape to it (one of very few today). The angled bat and the uncertainty just outside off created an inside edge.
When you don’t find too much of swing and seam, you should stick to a line just outside off. The visiting bowlers were wayward in this regard. Only Kallis bowled a tidy and a consistent line.
Brendon McCullum covered well for the swing that was available. He took a lot of responsibility that has to be shouldered by a No. 3 batsman. He missed a pull off Morkel and was badly hit on his fingers. The little period of play that followed was the only uncertain time in his innings. Taylor started scoring with a couple of risky cuts, close to his body. That seems to be one of his serious run scoring shot, so there’s little sense in complaining about the stroke. Taylor and McCullum put on an eighty nine run stand that would have given Graeme Smith some serious concerns. But what followed, was nothing short of a disaster.
Only twice before today, has a test team lost five wickets for no run, and on all three occasions so far, it’s been New Zealand !
When will this batting unit come together??
McCullum holed out playing the pull, Taylor was caught behind and Williamson succumbed to a ripper from Steyn. Whether it was the rain that caused a change of mindet of the batsmen, I don’t know. But both Steyn and Philander looked to exploit whatever little the rain provided. And this time, there was no rescue act from Daniel Vettori. Bracewell’s bowling at the end of the day was promising again, but I’m not sure he’s going to be an all rounder in the test team.
Kruger van Wyk played another gutsy knock and along with Mark Gillespie’s counter attacking knock, took New Zealand to a slightly more face-saving total. That reminds me, I am still properly gutted for Trent Boult. With little assistance from the pitch in Dunedin, he stuck to a tight line and bowled to a plan. He was promising in Australia, as well. Southee’s axing is understandable, but not Boult’s. I am not going to say two 32 plus bowlers replaced two other bowlers aged around 22, but Boult has done little wrong so far.
Imran Tahir had little to do, but he had a deep point in his first over, 6 minutes before lunch. Safe to say Smith has caught the infection.
I greatly fear 185 is going to be too small a total on this wicket, with Kallis and Jakkels having centuries behind them. But you can always expect efficiency from the Black Caps’ bowling and fielding unit. That is what could make this game interesting. Smith is already back in the hut, caught brilliantly by van Wyk. It was an atrocious shot from Smith, but again, that’s how he’s played all his career. He has a decent average and has got people calling his technique as gutsy. No purist will like it. South Africa made a poor decision sending a night watchman with half an hour’s play left, and paid for it. Steyn was picked up by Martin and SA end the day on 2 for 27.
The extra half an hour in the morning session tomorrow, because of the rain today, should be utilized well by the bowling team. If South Africa don’t lose more than 2 wickets in the first session, they could be well on their way to a sizable lead.
“The bride doesn’t put on her dress and makeup until her wedding day” said the curator at Seddon Park, two days before the game. He’d reacted to concerns of a very green pitch. Today, the bride was ready but the Kiwi batsmen weren’t.