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The Wisden Bulletin by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
March 20, 2004
New Zealand 584 for 8 (Styris 170, Cairns 158, Oram 90, McMillan 82) lead South Africa 296 by 288 runs
Chris Cairns was in the zone, and his ballistic 158 propelled New Zealand to a mammoth 584 for 8 by the end of the third day at Auckland. Cairns stood out, but there were other stars too. Scott Styris's majestic 170 was supported by Craig McMillan's workman-like 82. And Jacob Oram (90) played second fiddle while Cairns blasted the bowling to smithereens. On a day of frenetic batting, 383 runs were scored, including 43 fours and ten sixes. South Africa's bowlers were simply pounded to pulp.
The first session was relatively quiet. The conditions in the morning resembled those on the first day. There was no envelope of overcast skies, and the New Zealanders feasted under the sun. None of the bowlers extracted any appreciable lateral movement, as Chris Martin had done so well yesterday, and the batsmen took liberties with their driving and swishing.
Styris patted Jacques Kallis into the covers to reach 150, in 191 balls, and then unfurled some powerful blows. McMillan brought up his own half-century, and Graeme Smith was fast running out of options. The new ball was due, but interestingly he didn't take it immediately, and the move paid off. Nicky Boje made the breakthrough with the first ball of the 81st over, as Styris lunged forward in defence and Shaun Pollock latched on to the edge, diving low to his right (285 for 4). It ended a magnificent innings, one characterised by fearlessness under pressure, that included 24 fours and two mighty sixes. Styris had come in when New Zealand were 12 for 2 with the ball fizzing around dangerously. When he left, they were wrapped in a cosy blanket.
Smith took the new ball immediately after the dismissal, but the batsmen came out with an attacking game-plan. The first ball after lunch foreshadowed what was to follow. McMillan launched into a ball which was swinging away, and it streakily raced through the vacant gully region.
McMillan flashed a few more fours in quick time, before South Africa had their best moments of the session, getting rid of McMillan and Brendon McCullum. Both wickets came off inside edges: McMillan undercut Pollock into his leg stump, and McCullum was bowled for 13 by a low full-toss from Ntini (349 for 6). But the plan for New Zealand was to get after the new ball, and someone had to execute it.
Cairns began as if intent on igniting Mount Eden, the dormant volcano which is so famous in these parts, back into life. Pollock was hammered for four fours in one over as Cairns blazed drives through point, cover and straight down the ground. The short stuff was carted to midwicket, and he raced to 40 off just 24 balls. All the other bowlers were bludgeoned too, and in the space of a few minutes, Cairns had snuffed out any hopes of a South African revival.
The momentum was duly seized, but in the third session South Africa were hit by a crushing tidal wave. New Zealand not only savaged 187 runs, but did so in demoralising fashion. Sixes soared in every direction, and Cairns was playing the big bully as if confronting a fresher on his first day at college. Kallis got his traditional hundred - but this was an unwanted one with the ball, as he conceded 108 runs in 23 overs. Cairns and Oram hit ten sixes between them, and most landed way beyond the ropes. It was a brutal assault.
Cairns finally fell to Smith, trying to loft him over long-on and skying a catch to Kallis (574 for 7). Oram reached 90 before he was cleaned up by Ntini right at the end of the day (578 for 8).
Unless conditions change drastically tomorrow, South Africa could hang on and draw this Test. But they are unlikely to forget the battering they received at the hands of Chris Cairns.
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