Two Jacques trump New Zealand
South Africa 279 for 4 (Kallis 92, Rudolph 72) v New Zealand
Jacques Kallis fell a couple of muscular drives short of becoming the first man since Donald Bradman to score centuries in five consecutive Test matches as South Africa dominated the opening day of the series against New Zealand at Westpac Park in Hamilton. Kallis's 92 was buttressed by a classy 72 from the other Jacques, Rudolph, with Gary Kirsten - who played some superb cuts and drives off Daniel Vettori - providing a stabilising hand in the final session. When stumps were drawn, South Africa were 279 for 4, with Paul Adams, the nightwatchman, keeping Kirsten company.
The highlight of the day's play was the 132-run partnership for the third wicket, after both Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs had gifted Vettori their wickets with injudicious shots. While Jacques and Jacques were at the crease, the shot selection was tremendous, the concentration levels unwavering, and New Zealand's dejection palpable.
Kallis slowed down after Rudolph departed, and was dismissed a quarter of an hour before stumps, hooking Jacob Oram to Daryl Tuffey at deep fine leg. Neither Kallis, nor Kirsten at the non-striker's end, observed Oram gesturing for two men to be placed on the fence for the shot, and Kallis insouciantly dropped the ball into Tuffey's hands (271 for 4).
Torrential rain had ruined the strip originally chosen for the game, and when play started on a pitch right at the edge of the square, it appeared as though it had been airlifted from the subcontinent - deep brown and with not a hint of live grass. New Zealand gave Test debuts to Michael Papps and Brendon McCullum, and included two spinners in their endeavour to win a first ever series against South Africa.
After a hesitant start that included streaky shots through the slip cordon, Gibbs and Smith took charge. Gibbs stroked two superb cover-drives off Tuffey and after 12 overs marked by little penetration, Fleming tossed the ball to Vettori. He settled into a probing line and length straight away, varying his flight to keep the batsmen guessing.
Smith decided to take the initiative after drinks, coming down the track to smash a delivery over midwicket and then rocking back to place another through backward point.
Gibbs brought up the 50 with a guide past gully, and a top-edged pull over the keeper for four, but just when it all appeared rosy, Vettori struck. Smith was enticed forward by a flighted delivery, and his neither-here-nor-there chip found Oram at midwicket (51 for 1). He made 25.
The batsmen then went into hibernation for almost half an hour as Vettori and Chris Cairns dried up the runs, supported by Fleming's restrictive fields. Gibbs finally jolted South Africa out of their stupor with a magnificent straight six off Vettori, before falling to one of the worst deliveries sent down all morning. A hit-me ball wide outside off stump, and Gibbs (40) hit it alright, straight to Scott Styris at cover (79 for 2).
Rudolph and Kallis regained some lost ground with some pleasing strokes just before lunch, with Kallis clearing the rope twice as Paul Wiseman wasn't allowed to settle. After the interval, both men played some glorious strokes while dismantling a mediocre bowling attack.
Fleming opted for pace to try and force a breakthrough, perhaps hoping that Cairns and Tuffey might get the ball to reverse swing. But there was little movement, in the air or off the pitch, and a flick off the pads from Kallis when Cairns overpitched set the tone for the session.
Vettori came on, and Rudolph said hello with a sumptuous square-drive for four. In keeping with the spirit of change, Oram had come on at the other end, but Kallis met him with a fortuitous edge for four - the slips had long since scattered - and a savage pull that cleared the fence at square leg.
Rudolph had his own moment of good fortune, edging Vettori past slip for four, but Dame Luck had nothing to do with the stunning straight six with which he reached his 50. A cute late cut demoralised New Zealand further, even as Kallis continued to cover-drive like a dream at the other end.
Rudolph's dismissal, brilliantly caught low to his left by McCullum off Styris's bowling, resulted in most of the momentum being lost, with both Kallis and Kirsten appearing content to play the waiting game in the final hour. New Zealand may have reined it back as the shadows lengthened, but South Africa had enough batting in reserve to motor out of sight on day two.