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The Report by Andrew Fernando
March 26, 2012
South Africa 474 for 9 dec & 75 for 0 (Petersen 38*, Smith 34*) lead New Zealand 275 (Guptill 59, Philander 6-81) by 274 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
New Zealand staved off collapse for 87 overs, but gifted South Africa an opening to push for the win, when they lost five wickets for 33 on day four in Wellington. Only two edges past the keeper allowed the hosts avert the follow on, and at stumps South Africa led by 274 runs, with 10 wickets remaining and an opportunity to crack New Zealand again on the final day of the series. Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen scored at five runs an over late in the day, hinting a declaration might come early on day five, to give their bowlers a chance to clinch the series 2-0.
Vernon Philander became the fastest man to 50 Test wickets in 116 years, as he bagged his sixth five-wicket haul in his seventh Test. His 6 for 81 was all the more impressive for the lack of movement at the Basin Reserve. Rarely straying from his impeccable off-stump line, Philander threatened even when his team-mates seemed flat and the batsmen well set. He removed Daniel Flynn to claim the first scalp of the morning, dismissed Martin Guptill on the stroke of lunch, then returned to crush the lower order with second new ball. Sharp and accurate, but uncomplicated, no side yet has learnt to play him - not even New Zealand, who might have devised new plans, having suffered so severely at his hands in Dunedin and Hamilton.
New Zealand's reply was dealt a blow when Ross Taylor took a Morne Morkel bouncer on the wrist. Morkel had intimidated, bruised and winded Taylor throughout the series, but seems to have delivered the knockout blow in Wellington. A golf-ball sized lump on the end of Taylor's forearm hid a fracture to his ulna, and he will only bat again if the situation is dire for New Zealand - perhaps not even then.
Despite Taylor's injury though, New Zealand had laid the foundations for a competitive reply. At 219 for 3 (effectively 4, with Taylor having retired hurt), eclipsing the follow-on target seemed a foregone conclusion. South Africa had stuck rigidly with a plan to bowl back-of-a-length and, at times, New Zealand seemed to be handling it. Williamson and Brownlie both pulled powerfully when the lifters didn't quite get head-high, and they had little trouble swaying away or ducking under the rest.
South Africa's perseverance eventually paid off though, and it made plain once again the definitive trait of the series: New Zealand have fought hard to get themselves in good positions, but South Africa have been the more patient side - sticking to their modes of attack until New Zealand make the errors and gift it all away.
The pull shot had been productive for Brownlie, but ended his promising 59-run stand with Williamson when he top-edged a Philander short ball to Dale Steyn at fine leg. Williamson rebuilt momentarily alongside Vettori, but was undone by another short one - this time from Steyn himself, who moved it slightly away to take Williamson's edge. Vettori was the exception, hitting a full delivery to gully, but Doug Bracewell resumed the pattern, deflecting a short ball onto his stumps for nought. Kruger van Wyk top-edged another pull before Mark Gillespie's edges saved New Zealand the ignominy of following on. Even he fell to a short ball. After having seemed so comfortable, six New Zealand wickets had fallen for 56 and three in a heap with the score on 263.
New Zealand's woes might have been even greater, had they not been given five reprieves earlier in the day. Martin Guptill provided the early substance to the reply with his first 50 of the series, but he had been given three lives.
Steyn and Morkel put New Zealand's overnight pair through a harrowing interrogation first up, testing technique and temperament with searing pace and movement through the air. Steyn drew several plays and misses with a series of outswingers to Martin Guptill, failing only to extract first blood. It was a surprise no batsman was bleeding at the other end either, where Morkel fired in bouncers at close to 150 kph.
Guptill and Daniel Flynn were intimidated into caution, having steadily introduced aggression into their play the previous evening, and though the pair applied themselves in periods, only luck prevented their early demise. Twice Guptill was dropped in the gully, Steyn fuming as JP Duminy spilt both chances diving to his left, while Flynn was hounded by Morkel - an inside edge flying whiskers wide of off stump amid a bruising chain of bouncers.
Flynn eventually lost his wicket to Philander, before Guptill got his third life on the fence where deep square leg had wandered too far infield to intercept his pull. Brendon McCullum also got a chance, Duminy spilling another catch off a now-furious Steyn, before he departed attempting to pull - he managed only to give the keeper a straightforward take.
South Africa's reply was predictably belligerent. Petersen hammered two fours off the first over of the innings, and the pace rarely relented thereafter. Twos were run hard to the outfield, and though acting-captain McCullum retained the slips in the opening overs, more defensive fields were set towards the close. Smith waltzed down the pitch to slam Gillespie into the crowd to bring up the team's 50, and soon no less than seven men patrolled the fence for the hosts. The cut-off time for the evening came before the full quota of overs had been bowled, ending a day that again promised much for New Zealand in periods, but ultimately left them in a tangle thanks to one burst of poor cricket.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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