December 4, 2000

South Africa seized the moment, says Pollock

South African captain Shaun Pollock argued that his side had seized the big moments to win the second Castle Lager/MTN Test match - and the series - by seven wickets at St George's Park on Monday.

Pollock picked out two turning points that had taken the game away from New Zealand: the eighth wicket stand between Neil McKenzie and Nicky Boje that took South Africa from 209 for seven to 345 for eight on Saturday and the bowling on Sunday when New Zealand slumped from 64 for three to 148 all out.

South Africa might not have played their most efficient cricket throughout the match, but when the push was needed, the home side were able to lift their game.

"When you realise or recognise times in the game when you can take it by the scruff of the neck, it needs a big push from the whole team and that's what we did," said Pollock.

The win gives South Africa an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the series - Pollock's first series triumph as captain - and makes it the side's fourth successive winning home series. Not since 1997 when Australia were in the country have South Africa lost at home.

As Pollock noted, the batting of McKenzie, whose maiden century confirmed his obvious talent and will have earned him job security for at least the rest of the home season, and Boje took South Africa from staring at a substantial first innings deficit into a 60-run lead.

The wind was taken out of New Zealand's sails by the partnership, but the killer blow, as Stephen Fleming acknowledged, came with the second innings collapse.

"After lunch (on the fourth day) it turned horribly wrong," said Fleming. "It was a disastrous session that cost us the match. Really, there's no explaining it. It was poor batsmanship and poor option taking. If you want to look for anything in the match, that session sums it up."

Fleming did not point to tiredness after New Zealand's long four-month haul through Africa as a reason for the collapse, but instead put it down to anxiety.

And when the tourists took the wickets of Jacques Kallis and Daryll Cullinan on Monday before McKenzie and Gary Kirsten took the home side to 89 for three and victory, Fleming told his side to "look back to yesterday. Put another 150 on the board and what kind of game would we be playing. A bloody good game. We just missed the boat. That's very, very frustrating".

The South Africans have all been sent home for a couple of days before regrouping in Johannesburg for the third and final Test starting at the Wanderers on Friday.

For McKenzie, who got off the mark with a straight six off Brooke Walker on Monday as he sought to finish the game off in a hurry, it will be a chance to catch up with his father Kevin. "We've had a chat on the phone," said McKenzie the younger. "He's one of those guys who doesn't show too much emotion. But my Mom said, Ja, he was chuffed."

If there has been a disappointing side to the series for South Africa, it is that it has been played out before disappointing attendances. No crowd bigger than 5 000 has watched any of the 10 days of the series so far and Pollock is hoping for a better turn out at the Wanderers.

"I think we're playing good cricket and it would be nice to get full stadiums," he said. "Each of us enjoys going out there with a good vibe and a full stadium."