Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Oram's excellence hands New Zealand advantage

South Africa 276 and 4 for 0 (Smith 3*, Gibbs 0*) trail New Zealand 327 (Oram 133, Vettori 81, Ntini 5-94) by 47 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out

An extraordinary hundred from Jacob Oram, and an equally vital fifty from Daniel Vettori, dug New Zealand out of a cavernous hole to give them the most unlikely of leads on the second day of the first Test against South Africa at Centurion. New Zealand had slipped to 89 for 6, yet by the time stumps were called they had gained a lead of 51 runs, and outplayed the hosts from the most precipitous of positions.

For all its backs-to-the-wall brilliance, Oram's hundred, his third in Tests, was all the more impressive considering this was his comeback game: not since November 2004 had he played a Test. Given his side's perilous situation, and the additional nerves befitting a man who has missed sixteen Tests, any rustiness might have been forgiven. There was none.

He was joined by Brendon McCullum who lit the fuse for New Zealand, refusing to be dictated any longer by South Africa's bowlers - or indeed the pitch, which was causing balls to dribble and climb in equal measure. McCullum's aggression rubbed off on Oram who quickly asserted his authority - using his height to counter the bounce, and his mettle to numb the intensity of the circumstances.

You felt McCullum's bullish bravado couldn't last long, and it didn't. In spite of this wicket, Vettori rose to the fore again and together with Oram added 183 to prise their backs from the wall. Dropped by Boeta Dippenaar at first slip on 33, Oram seized on the opportunity; combining power of stroke with sense of mind is a combination few batsmen master, yet he succeeded in emphatic fashion. Peppering the off-side off both front and back foot, in a manner reminiscent of Stephen Fleming in his pomp, all of a sudden South Africa's attack was made to look rather ordinary.

Again, they failed to close the game up when the opportunity presented itself which Allan Donald, commenting on TV, said was 'a major issue'. South Africa didn't so much let them off the hook as hand them the fishing rod and net as well. On countless occasions the fortunate edges flew down to a vacant third man much to the fury of Makhaya Ntini, in particular, who deserved more economical figures than 5 for 94 from 19 overs.

Oram went to his hundred with a bludgeoned four and his delight soon turned to emotional relief as the magnitude of his performance sunk in. New Zealand still trailed, however, and there was work to be done. At the other end, Vettori played a magnificent hand, scything the odd boundary and driving down the ground with the panache of a top-order batsman. His value to New Zealand as a nuggety lower-order player cannot be underestimated and was amply demonstrated when he reached the milestone of 2000 Test runs to go with his 200 Test wickets. Only Richard Hadlee and Chris Cairns have done better for New Zealand.

After producing some unplayable deliveries in the morning session, Dale Steyn suffered in his return spells in much the same manner as his previous outings in Test cricket. Initially he was bending the ball markedly and bowling with immense pace. It was when, not if, he would take a wicket. Yet Oram and Vettori, and perhaps the pitch flattening out a touch, clearly dented his confidence; the shoulders dropped, the brow furrowed and the batsmen made hay.

The furrowed brows belonged to New Zealand earlier in the day, however. After dismissing South Africa quickly, their batsmen succumbed to the pace of Ntini and Steyn on a pitch which offered a remarkable amount of movement. To the surprise of many, not least Stephen Fleming, the groundsman at Centurion hadn't used this particular strip for anything other than a one-dayer. Indeed, Fleming, playing in his 100th Test, was only party to this revelation this morning, and his woes continued when he was wrongly given out caught-and-bowled for nought off Ntini when the ball clearly missed his bat.

If Fleming's decision was rather fortunate for South Africa, the rest of the batsmen had only themselves - and sometimes the pitch - to blame. In a breathless period before lunch, Ntini picked up three wickets, with Pollock and Steyn sharing the other two.

After reaching his hundred, Oram opened his shoulders - he is a huge, powerful bloke - to launch a flurry of boundaries to take him past his previous Test best of 126 not out against Australia. Crucially - extraordinarily so given the failure of New Zealand's top six - he gave his side a lead of 51, and took the momentum away from South Africa.

How they were out

South Africa

Nicky Boje lbw b Franklin 23 (274 for 9)
Trapped on the crease

Dale Steyn c Mills b Martin 13 (276 all out)
Lifter, spooned to cover

New Zealand

Hamish Marshall b Ntini 6 (8 for 1)
Darted back and kept horribly low

Stephen Fleming c&b Ntini 0 (12 for 2)
Ball popped up, simple catch

Scott Styris c Gibbs b Ntini 1 (32 for 3)
Nasty bounce, fended to gully who took a fine catch

Peter Fulton c Boucher b Pollock 14 (38 for 4)
Squared up by one which went straight on, brilliant catch

Nathan Astle c Boucher b Steyn 4 (45 for 5)
Perfect outswinger, injudicious drive

Brendon McCullum c Boje b Kallis 31 (89 for 6)
Got carried away, ball flew to gully

Daniel Vettori c Prince b Ntini 81 (272 for 7)
Attempted pull, ball got onto him quickly and ballooned to cover

James Franklin c Boucher b Ntini 8 (280 for 8)
Cramped for room around the wicket

Kyle Mills c Boje b Pollock 12 (322 for 9)
Top-edged pull to deep square-leg

Jacob Oram c Pollock b Steyn 133 (327 all out)
Tired top-edged pull to mid-on

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