Kirsten's 137 puts South Africa in the box seat
New Zealand 102 for 2 (Papps 50*, Styris 16*) trail South Africa 459 (Kirsten 137, Kallis 92; Vettori 4-158) by 357 runs
Gary Kirsten's superbly compiled 137 illuminated the second day's play at Wespac Park in Hamilton, as South Africa continued to have the better of the opening Test against New Zealand. Kirsten made 106 of the 180 that South Africa added today, and by stumps, New Zealand - who need to make 260 to avoid the follow-on - had progressed to 102 for 2, with Michael Papps having made a hit-and-miss 50 on debut.
All the headlines belonged to Kirsten, and deservedly so. Starting the day on 31, he lost Paul Adams to the tenth ball of the morning, chopping a Jacob Oram delivery back on to the stumps (281 for 5). Neil McKenzie started nervously, and made just 10, before Daniel Vettori trapped him leg before with one that straightened after pitching (305 for 6).
Mark Boucher and Kirsten counter-attacked spiritedly, with Kirsten essaying two powerful square-drives off a wayward Chris Cairns to go past 50. At the other end, Boucher swept Vettori for three boundaries, shots struck with tremendous power and deft placement.
Kirsten, with a reputation for dogged resistance, was forever on the lookout for scoring opportunities, and a charge-and chip over the infield off Vettori, followed by a flayed off-drive off Cairns, signalled his aggressive intent.
It was all getting a bit desperate for New Zealand when Scott Styris lifted their spirits in his second over of the morning. Boucher had progressed to 22 when Styris tempted him to play across the line. He missed, the ball struck the pad, and umpire Steve Davis had little hesitation in lifting the finger (364 for 7).
Shaun Pollock should have followed the very next ball, caught palpably in front by another straight delivery. This time though, Davis didn't uphold the appeal. Then, just before lunch, Pollock had another reprieve. After driving Paul Wiseman handsomely through the covers for four, he attempted a repeat. The edge flew to Fleming at slip, and was put down.
Pollock didn't make the most of the life. Soon after lunch, Kirsten dabbed a delivery from Vettori towards point, and thought about the run, not once, but twice. By the time he decided to send Pollock back, it was too late for him to beat Papps's throw to Vettori (379 for 8).
Soon after, Vettori watched Stephen Fleming fail to hold on to a difficult chance at silly point off Makhaya Ntini. It was to be a costly lapse, as Ntini - dropped again by Cairns in the deep a few minutes later - gave Kirsten the support he needed to take the total well beyond 400.
Ntini contributed 21, before another needless run-out. His attempt to belt Vettori went off the leading edge to Oram at point, and with Kirsten showing no interest in the run, Ntini found himself stranded mid-pitch (415 for 9). Kirsten endured nervy moments on 99, before a swept single off Vettori got him to his 21st Test century.
Thereafter, the runs came in a torrent. Vettori was taken for 15 in an over - a loft over midwicket, a powerful sweep and a glorious straight six that left the bowler clutching his head. There were also deft cuts when Styris gave him too much width, as he reeled off 37 from the last 21 balls he faced. He was finally out lofting a catch to Papps at backward point - off the leading edge - after another attempt to give Vettori the charge.
When New Zealand came out to bat half an hour before tea, runs were hard to come by, with both Ntini and Pollock giving nothing away. Pollock, in particular, troubled Papps constantly with a probing line of attack outside off stump. Having hit him on the helmet grille with a delivery, he then had to watch Smith juggle with, and put down, a sharp chance to his left at slip.
Pollock's spell was duly rewarded when he trapped Mark Richardson (4) in front with one that nipped back sharply (20 for 1). A while later, with the opening bowlers needing a breather, there was a heated argument between Smith and umpire Russell Tiffin, who warned Andre Nel for running onto the pitch just two balls into his spell. An unnerved Nel then conceded three fours in one over to Fleming, two of them off the edge down to third man, as New Zealand finally shifted out of crawl-mode.
Papps had begun to bat with confidence by then, and two powerful pulls for four, followed by a rapier-like cut off Kallis, gave the crowd something to cheer. When Adams came on to bowl the 28th over, he promptly smacked him through cover and midwicket for two more fours.
Adams, though, was not to be denied. With the first ball of his second over, he had Fleming leg before with a flighted delivery that caught him plumb in front (75 for 2). Fleming made 27. Papps and Styris then saw it through to stumps, with Papps essaying a back-foot square-drive and then edging one for four off Kallis to bring up his 50, and the 100 of the innings. It was a decent riposte, after Kirsten had ensured that the box seat belonged to South Africa.