South Africa batter New Zealand with pace
New Zealand wilted in the face of aggressive fast bowling from South Africa, as Dale Steyn continued his fine form with 4 for 42. From 84 for 1, they collapsed - literally, in the case of Craig Cumming - to 187 for 8.
It was another depressing day for New Zealand on a tour that has swung from one calamity to another. Without Jacob Oram, the towering allrounder and lacking the spearheading pace of Shane Bond, Daniel Vettori had little option other than to bat first, even on a pitch which had South Africa's bowlers salivating with glee. With a greenish tinge and crazy-paving cracks, it was made for Steyn and Makhaya Ntini.
They fell into the trap of bowling too short, however, and after the early wicket of Michael Papps, Cumming and Lou Vincent - who was drafted in to replace Oram - began to rebuild the team's confidence with a solid stand of 62. Vincent's counter-attack appeared rather reckless - fours slashed over point rather than creamed through the covers - but in the face of adversity, it was precisely what New Zealand needed. As can happen with South Africa, their shoulders dropped quickly and they went to lunch kicking their heels.
Whatever the Centurion chef served agreed with Steyn and Andre Nel in particular. After lunch, they mixed up their lengths impressively and, if anything, the pitch was quicker too. A ferociously quick bouncer from Steyn unsettled Vincent in the second over after lunch; Vincent attempted to hook him the very next delivery but found Paul Harris circling at square leg.
Cumming appeared to have the measure of the pitch and the length of the bowlers, too, thumping Ntini on the up over the covers and teaching his fallen team-mates the benefits of patience. But he had to leave the field after being struck a horrible, bloodying blow on the face while trying to pull Steyn. It was a terrific bouncer - fast, aggressive and straight - and simply too quick for Cumming, the ball jarring against the grill and flooring him.
Cumming's loss had an obvious impact on his team-mates. Scott Styris came and went in a hurry, undone by a clever slower ball from Steyn, while Ross Taylor was quite brilliantly caught by Ashwell Prince, diving high to his left at gully. By now, South Africa had wrestled the advantage in double-quick time.
However, one man stood in their way: Stephen Fleming. An elegant flick for four off his pads in front of square; a hook for six over fine-leg and a beautiful late-cut past gully left Steyn wearing a wry, chastened grin. He took advantage of the width offered by Jacques Kallis too, forcing him through extra cover to move into the forties, but Kallis got his man when Fleming mis-timed one straight to Prince at point. And with him, you felt, went New Zealand's chances of a big first-innings score.
Daniel Vettori fought back with two ballsy boundaries - as he did at Johannesburg -but, on the stroke of tea, Brendon McCullum edged Andre Nel to AB de Villiers at first slip to leave New Zealand capitulating on 184 for 6 at tea.
The flimsy tail didn't last long, Steyn removing Mark Gillespie and Iain O'Brien with successive deliveries, before Chris Martin - a walking wicket - survived an admittedly hopeless hat-trick delivery. The only crumb of comfort New Zealand can take was the bad light, preventing them from being dismissed in under three sessions. Again.
In two years, New Zealand have played eight Tests. In the same period, South Africa have played 19. Competent though South Africa's cricket is, New Zealand's lack of experience is having a gross effect on their future.
Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo