South Africa v New Zealand, 1st Test, Cape Town, 3rd day January 4, 2013

Brownlie then bust for New Zealand

It is tough to take much from a three-day thrashing that includes being humbled for 45, but Dean Brownlie's hundred was an innings that could kick-start a career

Five minutes before lunch on the third day New Zealand were close to some sort of redemption. They trailed South Africa by 73 runs and had six wickets in hand. Although they did not have much to come with the bat, the possibility that they could avoid an innings defeat was dawning.

They knew a new ball was due. They knew it would be a challenge. They knew they had to see it off. And Dean Brownlie, their best performer of the match by some distance, could not do it.

Graeme Smith had specifically placed a deep point to collect his cut and with the extra bounce, Brownlie couldn't keep his favourite shot down. It opened New Zealand up and then it was only a matter of time and margin, nothing else.

Maybe it was better that it happened that way. If Brownlie had kept going, notched up a score in excess of 150, ushered Watling passed a half-century, erased the deficit and helped New Zealand force South Africa to bat again, the defeat (and barring miracles it would still have been defeat) could have been tinged with some kind of sense of achievement.

It may have papered over some of New Zealand significant problems. Instead, it's allowed them to continue feeling the same severe soreness they experienced since the first hour on Wednesday. "It is disappointing to lose a Test match inside three days. It hurts immensely. There are some very disappointed boys in the changeroom and that hasn't changed," the captain Brendon McCullum said.

There is one thing the captain has done very well on this tour so far and that is look worried. That also hasn't changed. McCullum is obviously embarrassed by the team's first innings effort and he should be. But in the overall gloom, Brownlie has given them something to take out of the match.

It was not his technique that was overly convincing, it was his temperament. He withstood two dropped catches - a sign that some part of his technique could do with some polishing - a review and a bizarre bail removal. All of those could have rattled his confidence and he did not let them. He just dug in and carried on.

He did not have the same immense concentration of Watling, who did not get frustrated by a lack of runs and continued to defend, walk away, come back and defend again. His approach was more positive as he continued to look for ways to move the scoreboard forward. He took on Robin Peterson when the left-arm spinner decided to give the ball some air. He tried to bat as though he did not have any fear and for most of his innings, he had us convinced.

What Brownlie showed, like Kane Williamson in Wellington, but what wasn't clear on the first morning, is that there is heart in the New Zealand line-up. Importantly Brownlie demonstrated that it beats in players other than the ones people most expected it too. When South Africa toured New Zealand in March, Brownlie's comeback from a fractured finger was much anticipated. He scored 29, looked tentative and was easy to forget.

But there is much hope being invested in him. Locals spoke about him becoming an integral part of the middle order with Williamson and Ross Taylor. In the absence of the latter, he has had to step into his place, accept more responsibility and keep the fiercest attack in world cricket at bay.

For more than four and half hours he did that. Had it been to save the match, he would have been hailed a hero. But Vernon Philander reminded why he cannot be, for now. "With the intensity of our bowling attack, we are going to exploit weaknesses. And when he gave his wicket away, it opened up the tail."

Philander is known for telling it like it is and callous as his comment sounds that is how it was. South Africa had the advantage of the new ball and a bowler who can make a pancake bounce but Brownlie threw it away when he shouldn't have. Less than session later it was over although it could have been far, far worse.

New Zealand still lost a Test match inside three days. They were still bowled out for their third-lowest total in their history and they still gave a poorer account of themselves than was expected. Yet, they also had a reason to be relieved after all of that.

Brownlie has added some layers to his reputation and will need to kick on. He has also given New Zealand some hope ahead of the next match. "Our second innings will never rid the memory of 45," McCullum admitted. "That will stay with us forever. But it has shown us that we are capable of absorbing pressure." Pressure that they will be under again next Friday.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Balajee on January 5, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    That's right New Zealand, get more Aussies into the team to be competitive.

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Here is a radical idea. Why don't cricket boards pay only 3/5 of the player's salary if they are beaten inside 3 days in a test match? There are so many NZ players who have managed to earn their international NZ salary (on top of what they earn in 20/20 competitions) when their performances are consistently not of international standard. Some might argue that it would make the lesser teams play negative cricket but perhaps their skill level demands they put away the more adventurous and concentrate on the basics!

  • Hamish on January 5, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    Agree with NostroGustro's team - looks pretty good on paper and definitely the best we can field. Vettori should take the 'spinners' spot for his batting and all round cricketing skills alone. He's also one of the best stock bowlers around, we just need to stop wishing he will ever be a potent wicket taker again.

    Well done to the saffas, it was domination, even if they do lack any kind of humility. Philander may be a great cricketer but he seems to fancy himself just a little bit too much for my liking, his first name is Vernon after all.

  • kd on January 5, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    come on people ,Guptill needs to be dropped hes NOT a test player he cant play the new ball, Flynn is NOT a test player hes a first class player. Patel has never been a test spinner. Bracewell needs a rest back in first class cricket. for the england series Watling has to open with Baz , Willimson at 3 Taylor at 4 Ryder at 5 Brownlee at 6 hopefull Vetori at 7 Shouthee at 8 Wagner at 9 Boult at 10 Martin at 11. Ronchi is a chance but Watling has to play

  • curtis on January 5, 2013, 2:51 GMT

    1.ryder 2.watling 3.williamson 4.taylor 5.guptill 6.mcullum 7.vetori 8.wagner/patel 9.bracewell 10.southee 11.boult

    jesse ryder opening, no fear can get off to flyer. bj got guts and our keeper. bowling is our strength 5 bowlers.

  • Martin on January 5, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    Surely Guptill's run of appalling performances should soon see him benched until his form and confidence make a welcome (and not untimely) return. Until then why not look to Lou Vincent who (if you ignore his pitiful recent T20 form) has shown consistent if unspectacular scoring in this season's first class games. also his test match average of around 35 compares favorably with our current crop. Also I agree with all those who wold like to see a return for Taylor, Ryder, Southee, and Vettori, however I would persist with McCullum opening for the simple reason that we have noone to replace him.

  • Ed on January 4, 2013, 23:23 GMT

    McCullum only averages 30 in tests, it's simply not enough, he must improve. I think they need to look at other options other than Guptil, I'd like to Ross Taylor back and Williamson shifted up to this position and take an "alistair cook' type role there. McCullum can go back to No.6 or go back to state cricket to learn to bat longer, he is one example where T20 has trashed his game, he just never looks like he'll resist a silly shot at some point before he reaches 50. Ryder should be told he has one year to make the squad, or they'll blood a younger player / play someone else. His just drinks too much and eats too much, that one should have been solved a long time ago by management.

  • Simon on January 4, 2013, 22:39 GMT

    It's a pity but telling that NZs best bat was a Perth club cricketer. Given that Ronchi is also in NZ now they may want toi instil some more backbone into the team. Critics of batting first are wimps. It's easy in hindsight but they would be saying the opposite if SA got to 600/2 dec. and then won by an innings and 300 as they beat England in England by.

  • Sriraj on January 4, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    One possible reason why Brownlie could perform and others couldn't should also be attributed to the fact that he is an Australian. That surely makes a difference in the positive fighting mindset you take to the game.