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The Report by Andrew Fernando
March 17, 2012
South Africa 253 (de Villiers 83, Morkel 35, Gillespie 5-59) and 103 for 1 (Smith 55*, Amla 46*) beat New Zealand 185 (McCullum 66, Philander 4-70) and 168 (Williamson 77, Philander 6-44) by nine wickets
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South Africa rode another irresistible performance from Vernon Philander to take a 1-0 lead in Hamilton, vanquishing the hosts by nine wickets inside three days. Philander continued his phenomenal success in a sublime six-Test career, demolishing New Zealand's lower order to finish with 6 for 44 in the second innings, and 10 for 114 in the match. His fifth five-wicket haul shrank his bowling average to 13.6, and Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla finished the win for South Africa with a smooth 98-run partnership in a chase of 101.
Having resumed the day with four wickets down and still trailing by three runs, New Zealand's hopes of setting a competitive target for South Africa rested primarily on the overnight pair of Kane Williamson and Daniel Vettori. Though the pair batted resolutely through the opening spells of South Africa's frontline seamers, a sleepy scoring rate never had the opposition under pressure and they were able to continue attacking until the breakthrough came. By the lunch, two superb pieces of old-ball bowling had exposed the hosts' long tail.
Williamson resisted South Africa for 193 deliveries, going past 50 for the first time in five Tests, but when Philander had him caught behind in the first over of the second session, New Zealand's dwindling hopes were snuffed out entirely. Philander's off-stump line had Williamson playing at the ball, and a hint of movement was enough to catch the outside edge.
Williamson began the day watchfully, as Dale Steyn found the reverse-swing that had undone Ross Taylor late on day two. Balls outside off stump were left alone - even those short and wide or overpitched, while the deliveries angled at the stumps were defended firmly or worked towards the leg side. Williamson had ended the previous evening on 41, but took a further 43 balls to score the nine runs for his half-century.
Vettori was almost as reticent, scoring significantly slower than his characteristic busy pace despite a disposition to be more punishing on bad deliveries. A clipped boundary through the leg side had his innings under way, and though Philander troubled him with the ball that darted back in, Vettori's hand-eye coordination was good enough to get bat on ball, even if his footwork was often muddled.
Smith moved methodically through his arsenal as he searched for a breakthrough, as the New Zealand pair saw out spells from Philander, Steyn and Morne Morkel. But the hosts were reminded of the relentless nature of the opposition attack, when Kallis produced a terrific effort ball that reared sharply, and took Vettori's glove as he attempted to evade it.
Kruger van Wyk partnered Williamson astutely for his 20, negotiating Kallis and Imran Tahir with confidence, before surviving a short-ball barrage from Steyn. But he could not see out Philander to end the session unbeaten; Philander swung the ball away to beat the edge, then brought it back in to rattle van Wyk's off stump.
Morkel found dramatic, late reverse-swing on his return to the crease, against which New Zealand's tail was clueless. Doug Bracewell was lucky to get an inside edge on one that struck him in front, but the rapid, tailing inswinger that sent his off stump cartwheeling might have got the better of most top-order batsmen. His dismissal was the second instance in the day where a New Zealand batsman had left a ball that moved in viciously to clip the stumps - van Wyk being the other.
Mark Gillespie swung wildly, hitting three boundaries off Philander's next over - but he was caught behind off the last ball. Chris Martin didn't last long against bowling of such quality, and New Zealand had slumped to their second sub-200 score on a flat surface. Having set South Africa only 101 to win, the hosts were on course for their second successive loss inside three days at Seddon Park.
Alviro Peterson's poor series with the bat continued, when he edged Bracewell's first ball to slip, but Smith and Amla closed out the game unperturbed, striking at over five an over as they wiped the target inside 20 overs. Amla flayed New Zealand's seamers through the off side, unfurling an array of drives off the front and back foot, while Smith bettered even Amla's scoring rate as he exemplified how true the pitch was still playing. Smith had time to make a half-century before hitting the winning runs.
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