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November 10, 2007
New Zealand are facing a crushing defeat in the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers. After watching Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla put on 330, New Zealand then lost early wickets to leave them limping - literally, in three cases - at 57 for 3. What an introduction to Test match captaincy it has been for Daniel Vettori.
It's hard to imagine how New Zealand could have endured a worse day than they did. To compound their misery, they have injuries affecting four of their players. Stephen Fleming looked reasonably comfortable when he batted late in the evening, but Michael Papps was stuck in the pavilion with a stomach upset, joining Shane Bond (abdomen) and Jacob Oram (hamstring). If either bowler fails to make it for the second Test, New Zealand will struggle to compete.
The contrast between the two sides was marked. Whereas Kallis and Amla cruised along, scarcely offering even half-chances, New Zealand's batsmen - admittedly facing a torrid hour in the evening sun - batted like terrified schoolchildren. Dale Steyn tore in with impressive pace, gaining lift off a good length and troubling Fleming for the second time in the match. It was terrific Test match bowling - Steyn, in tandem with Makhaya Ntini, offering the batsmen absolutely nothing.
Under such huge pressure, it wasn't a surprise when Cumming became the first to fall when he edged a beauty to Graeme Smith at first slip. But it was the wicket of Fleming South Africa needed the most, and the extra bounce of Andre Nel proved his undoing and provided Smith with another at slip. It was a very difficult catch, taken low and forward to his left, but he made it look very simple. Ross Taylor came and went, and New Zealand went to stumps in the perilous position of 57 for 3.
South Africa's mammoth lead was set up, perhaps predictably, by a wonderfully commanding innings from Kallis, but Amla's patient 176 was no less skilful - if lacking the confidence and class of his more experienced team-mate. The pair trudged along in the morning, but once Kallis smacked Vettori for six to bring up his 28th hundred, he opened his shoulders in exhilarating fashion. Not often does Kallis race to a fifty, but in just 51 balls he moved from 100 to 150, taking full advantage of the absent Bond by smiting the buffet bowling of Scott Styris and Iain O'Brien around the ground.
Amla's was a less commanding innings, but no less valuable for the patience he showed on a pitch with such variable bounce. The pair amassed a record stand for any wicket against New Zealand who, by this stage, were a finished team. Their fielding - usually a strong suit of touring New Zealand sides - was disappointing at best, and Michael Mason's seal-lurching effort at mid-off to drop Kallis was frankly pitiful.
Kallis, as ever, missed out on that elusive double hundred when he edged Oram behind for a majestic 186. It was his ninth score of 150 or more, and facing such innocuous bowling his maiden double-hundred was there for the taking. He did, however, pass 9000 Test runs and became South Africa's leading run-scorer against New Zealand.
The slight criticism with which South Africa can be discredited was the partnership between Ashwell Prince and Amla. With the lead already into the 400s, they were far too cautious and wary of accelerating accelerate. Prince batted with no urgency whatsoever, spending 85 balls to make 25. It was a waste of time and dull to watch.
It didn't cost them today though as their bowlers ripped out three early wickets. With the pitch expected to deteriorate, South Africa can expect to wrap this up by tomorrow evening.
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