New Zealand v South Africa, 1st Test, Dunedin, 1st day March 7, 2012

Martin burst turns first day New Zealand's way

South Africa 191 for 7 (Amla 62, Smith 53, Martin 3-34) v New Zealand
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

A Chris Martin triple-strike just after tea justified Ross Taylor's decision to bowl first on a placid Dunedin surface, as New Zealand first toppled South Africa's top order giants, then made headway into the tail, to leave the visitors on 191 for 7 at stumps on the first day. Heavy clouds failed to deliver the swing Taylor had banked on, but Martin's stunning spell against his favourite opponent among the top-eight nations, turned the innings, and drew first blood in the series.

The drama of Martin's surge was heightened by its abruptness. Following a sleepy first session that offered so little for the pacemen that South Africa seemed destined for a mammoth total, Martin snaffled Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers in four balls to tear the guts out of the opposition top order.

The rush of intensity was immediately apparent in Martin's first few balls after tea. Twice he beat Smith's outside edge, before hitting the batsman on the midriff with a straighter one. Having finished the previous session somewhat deflated, New Zealand suddenly sensed change. When Smith scooped the next one to short cover, they were positively buzzing.

The first ball of Martin's next over was sharp, short and angled. Too good for Kallis who could only manage an edge, which Taylor flew to his left to intercept. AB de Villiers was trapped by an indipper first ball. His review interrupted New Zealand's celebrations momentarily, before replays confirmed the shout was as plumb as they come. From a comfortable 86 for 1, South Africa had slipped to 90 for 4.

The recovery from South Africa, though somewhat short-lived, was swift and pleasing to the eye. Hashim Amla unfurled the offside strokes that bore him fruit in the ODI series, as he nullified a reinvigorated New Zealand pace attack that were once again searching for scalps. Purring cover drives and crisp square cuts found the ropes, and in 80 balls, he and Jacques Rudolph had scored 66.

But having crossed 50, Amla fell to his nemesis from earlier in the innings. His tussle with Daniel Vettori had been the most engrossing battle of the earlier session, when the spinner's turn beat his outside edge in his attempts to defend, and Vettori's flight outdid enterprising scurries down the pitch. That time, the release had come for Amla when he finally connected to launch Vettori into the stands. But in his first over after tea, Vettori landed the knockout punch when he got one to kick, taking Amla's edge.

Mark Boucher was then the victim of the run-out South Africa looked like offering thoughout the day. Smith and Amla had survived one chance each, when fielders failed to hit the stumps. But this time, no direct hit was necessary. Boucher bounded from the non-striker's end when Rudolph worked Vettori to point, and Bracewell swooped and found Kruger van Wyk's gloves with his throw, to leave the visitors at 161 for 6. Dale Steyn succumbed soon after, with Taylor snaffling a rebound from Martin Guptill in the slips to leave his side much the happier of the two at stumps.

The day had begun so promisingly for South Africa after almost four hours were lost to rain, when Graeme Smith progressed untroubled to a 31st Test half-century. New Zealand's decision to insert the opposition on a slow, batsmen's track seemed like folly when hopeful, full lengths from Martin, Trent Boult and Tim Southee were punched through the line by Smith in particular.

Misjudgment on line, rather than significant movement removed Alviro Petersen for 11, but with Amla and Smith progressing smoothly, and the cloud cover expected to clear for the evening session, a large total beckoned. Smith was punishing on the leg side, when New Zealand's pacemen abandoned their hopes for swing and muscled it in short, and his flick off middle stump for four just prior to tea epitomised his command of conditions. But things were about to change, and quickly.

Edited by Nikita Bastian

Andrew Fernando writes for The Pigeon and has a column here

Comments