December 3, 2000

South Africa poised to wrap up series

New Zealand bent, buckled and finally broke on the fourth afternoon of the second Castle Lager Test match at St George's Park on Sunday, collapsing in their second innings to leave South Africa with what should be the formality of victory on Monday.

After bowling out New Zealand for 148, South Africa were left 13 overs and all of Monday to make 86 to win the match and wrap up the three-Test series. By stumps they had lost the wicket of Boeta Dippenaar for 29 and they need another 57 to finished it all off.

Much of this Test match has been a waiting game and it was New Zealand who blinked first on Sunday. They cleaned up the end of the South African first innings in 16 balls early in the morning, lost an important second wicket just before lunch and then folded up in the middle session.

Between lunch and tea New Zealand crumpled from 58 for two to 127 for seven. They had started their second innings with a 63-run deficit to make up, but it was during the afternoon session that South Africa finally and almost certainly irretrievably wrenched the game away from the tourists by turning up the pressure until New Zealand cracked.

Nicky Boje had had first innings centurion Mathew Sinclair trapped leg before in what was to be the lunch over and he struck again eight balls after the break when Stephen Fleming drove at him and edged a catch to slip. It was a vital wicket, but the real turning point came when Nelson blinked up on the scoreboard.

On 111 New Zealand lost Mark Richardson caught at the wicket as he slashed at Shaun Pollock for a dogged 60 and Craig McMillan, trapped leg before first ball. Just as Nathan Astle had done in the New Zealand first innings, McMillan padded up. Against a wicket-to-wicket bowler like Pollock, this practically amounts to suicide and while umpire Ian Robinson was to give a couple of dodgy ones at the end of the innings, McMillan really couldn't complain.

Astle had watched this from the other end and his response to the growing crisis was to throw his bat at the first ball of Makhaya Ntini's next over. Mark Boucher took the catch and New Zealand were 115 for six. It was senseless batting, but South Africa had worked for it.

The last of the recognised batsmen, Adam Parore, tapped Ntini obligingly to extra cover at 122 for seven and after a few overs of trying to bounce the tail out, Lance Klusener used a fuller length to finish the innings off in three overs. Both Brooke Walker and Kerry Walmsley would not have been pleased about their LBW decisions, but tailenders are always more likely to get the rough ones and their dismissals only hastened the inevitable.

South Africa had bowled New Zealand out for 148 with only seven overs from Allan Donald. It emerged later that he is carrying a slight stomach muscle strain and Mfuneko Ngam, the 21-year-old Eastern Province fast bowler has been drafted into the squad on stand-by. South African team physiotherapist Craig Smith said Donald was "50-50" for the Wanderers Test starting on Friday.

New Zealand had made South Africa sweat in knocking off 100 in Bloemfontein two weeks ago, but 86 gives them even less chance. Dippenaar went for his second duck in two Tests when he padded up to Shayne O'Connor going around the wicket, but unless weather intervenes, the game will be all over before lunch on Monday.