'Feeling of calmness' playing South Africa - Martin
After a day in which he extended his already impressive record against South Africa, rocking them with a post-tea burst that claimed arguably their three best batsmen, Chris Martin would be expected to be quite elated. Or, at least, show signs of being somewhat pleased with his performance on a day when New Zealand needed a hero. He did not.
Instead, he took a measured view of why he was able to trouble a highly-rated batting line-up, yet again. "Certain [batsmen's] techniques suit certain bowling and, over the years, the way I bowl has troubled these guys. It [success against South Africa] has been reasonably consistent," Martin said. "It brings an added feeling of calmness, which I don't always have against all opposition. I certainly enjoyed myself today."
Martin has taken more wickets against South Africa than any other Test team - 47 in 11 matches, including this one, at 23.74 - and he has dismissed Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis more times than any other batsmen in Tests: seven and six, respectively.
When he sees either of Smith and Kallis standing 22 yards away, Martin said, that statistic does not register. "It may be going through their minds," he suggested. "I do know I've bowled well to them in the past though. Exactly what I do is probably a little bit difficult for him [Smith] at times, but there were also some pretty good wicket-taking balls in there [today]." The one that rose up off a length and had Kallis awkwardly edging, for example, or the delivery trapped AB de Villiers lbw after coming back into the right-hand batsman - impeccable pieces of bowling, both.
With three-wickets in four balls, Martin singlehandedly brought New Zealand back into a day that seemed headed decidedly South Africa's way. Had the visitors been allowed to continue piling on the runs, Ross Taylor's decision to bowl first and the incisiveness of the attack would have been questioned, and it's likely New Zealand would have been written off even more than they have already been, by their own media.
Martin said that that opinion has not affected the team, because they have made a concerted effort to stay away from it. "A lot of the things written and said aren't coming out of our camp," he said. "As far as putting up a fight and competing to the best of our abilities, that's more the focus. If the results come, that's because we've stayed tight and haven't listened to the naysayers. The camp is quite good at shielding us from that, especially the younger guys. As long as the older guys can keep everyone together [it's fine] … that's kind of how we operate."
One of those senior players is Martin himself and he understands his responsibility in acting as a barrier and making contributions that will change perceptions. Today, he feels he succeeded in doing both. "The good vibes you get from putting in a spell like that can carry over into the rest of series, that's definitely how you've got to approach it over what will be a long, tough series," he said. "With a top order as strong as theirs, once you get a run on, the team definitely lifts."
Although he made the main incisions, Martin had praise for his team-mates, particularly Doug Bracewell, who would have had two wickets to his name had his lbw appeal to Jacques Rudolph not come off a no-ball. "He realises that he is pretty tight [close to a no-ball] sometimes, so it's something that he needs to work on throughout his career," Martin said. "If he bowls this way throughout the series [though], he will get rewarded a lot more."
Martin's pragmatic approach extends to his own career as well. He has acknowledged that at 37-years-old time is not on his side so he wants to make the most of what is left of his international career. "It gets to a point when you are close to the end, when you are trying to enjoy every game and every series because you know there is a limit to how long you can go," he said. "It's a difficult thing to do when you are younger and trying to keep your place in the team, but when you are performing and you've only got a certain amount of series left in you, it pays to enjoy it."
Edited by Nikita Bastian
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent