Hosts aim for more aggression and consistency
Just as a pile of bricks stacked up on the side of the road will not materialise into a house, wickets will not fall simply because conditions suit bowlers. New Zealand's attack found that out the hard way, after their captain put South Africa in expecting better results.
The new-ball pair extracted decent movement before giving way to an array of loose deliveries, forcing Ross Taylor to bring on Daniel Vettori in the 14th over. It was only after tea interval that New Zealand applied more aggressive lines and lengths, which brought them the wicket of Hashim Amla and something to pin their hopes on ahead of the second morning.
All three matches in this series have prompted the captain who won the toss to take to the field first. In Dunedin, it was overcast skies that did it, in Hamilton, green tinges on the pitch and in Wellington a combination of the two. Wellington has been the only venue where the bowling side has not returned satisfied, despite conditions being as favourable for bowlers if not more.
If there is one thing New Zealand's attack could have learned from Vernon Philander, it's that bowlers cannot go wrong by attacking the off-stump channel. When there is a hint of swing as well, you can only go right. Chris Martin got it right when he squared Graeme Smith up with a delivery that seamed away in the third over and just missed the leading edge. Doug Bracewell did the same with away movement to Alviro Petersen that had the opener uncertain as it almost took the outside edge.
Instead of persisting with that approach, they soon veered onto all sorts of others, particularly after making an early breakthrough and seeing Smith depart cheaply. They were too full and too short but perhaps most concerning, too straight to an off-side heavy field which allowed Hashim Amla to play with the finesse he enjoys and Petersen to settle after early nerves.
Vettori's damage control was needed far earlier than Taylor would have planned. Still, he continued to employ positive captaincy and brought on Martin again once Vettori had pulled things back a touch but his only success was hitting Amla in the nether regions. Amla bubbled under throughout the series and looked in good nick without pushing on as far as he often does. This time, it seemed New Zealand would let him. They gave him the freedom of the Basin Reserve, with too many balls that could be caressed to the boundary.
"We missed our lengths early on so it was just a matter of more consistency with the ball and our body language could have been bit better," Doug Bracewell admitted. "More aggression was called for, in our lines and lengths and just being harder on ourselves. We were little bit loose early on and they got away."
Without saying it explicitly, Bracewell hinted New Zealand thought the pitch and conditions would do some of the work for them. They were also a little taken aback when they found it had less in it than they bargained for. "We thought it would move around little more," he said. "There's not a lot movement sideways but there's enough if you bend your back and get bit out of it."
At tea, that's exactly what they were told to do. Damien Wright meted out harsh words this time. "He said [we] need be harder on ourselves. He said it wasn't really good enough in that first session. [John] Wrighty also had a few words about body language and staying in the fight." New Zealand lost their way after the early wicket and John Wright's advice to keep themselves in the game may well have related to that.
Gillespie returned with more pace and a better plan, to hold the length back and entice Amla into the pull. It took just five deliveries for it to work. Both he and Bracewell applied the same strategy to Duminy, for whom Taylor kept a deep square leg. "Duminy hasn't played much cricket for couple weeks and may still be in one-day mode. He is the sort of player who comes at you hard. We thought if get a couple up him he might go for it," Bracewell said.
New Zealand's seamers ended the day with "seven good overs," Bracewell said. They forced a little more from the South African batsmen, making them take a few more risks than they had to earlier. Just as Duminy began to get comfortable, bad light took the players off the field and will gave New Zealand time to consider how they will sustain their attack, instead of allowing pressure to be released again.
Russell Domingo, South Africa's assistant coach said his camp was encouraged by the bounce in the track but New Zealand will still have to work hard to extract it. With the string northerly set to make its way into Wellington on the second day, they will have an additional challenge to deal with as well.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent