There's a certain bullishness about sportsmen in New Zealand that is similar to the famous Australian fighting spirit. New Zealanders might not like that comparison, given the big brother-little brother rivalry between the two countries, but they will not mind the positive words from the Australian assistant coach of the New Zealand cricket team, Tom Woodhill.
Woodhill, a New South Welshman, was firm that New Zealand were in with a chance of victory against South Africa in Dunedin, despite facing a daunting target of 401. "If we get two good partnerships, and the weather holds, then we'll have a match to win," Woodhill said, and made a distinct gesture to sit up straight in his chair, lean forward a little threateningly and widen his eyes. "We're confident. We're playing the best team or the second best team in the world at the moment, and we're going into day five of the Test match with a chance to win it."
For New Zealand to win the Test, they will have to complete their highest successful run chase. It will require Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor to bat even better than they did on the fourth day. They will have to show more patience and somehow balance that with attack, on a pitch which was still good for batting on the fourth day, though showing some signs of getting slower. "We have to make sure that one of them goes real big and the other goes pretty big," Woodhill said.
Towards the end of the day, after both had battled through tough periods, McCullum and Taylor started playing a few more shots, a risky choice given what has happened to batsmen, bar Graeme Smith, who have done that so far in this match. In the previous three innings, whenever batsmen showed a greater desire to attack, they created a greater risk of losing their wickets, and often did.
New Zealand's batsmen would do well to learn from Jacques Kallis, who played a trademark knock of supreme calm. He left more deliveries than he played, and crafted an innings of grit, concentrating on spending time at the crease and waiting for run-scoring opportunities rather than actively looking for them.
Woodhill said New Zealand's batsmen had watched Kallis and that McCullum, who reached 58 not out, was already showing signs of being prepared to battle for long. "They'd be crazy if they haven't learned from Kallis' innings. There's a simplicity to the way Kallis plays that is so pure. Watching Kallis up close, they've seen things in his game that they can transfer to their game.
"South Africa are a great side but we are also a really good side. We are learning and getting better all the time, and it's a valuable lesson to sit and watch the game. Baz [McCullum] has used the crease well and got down to the other end quickly as well. He also left really well."
New Zealand need another 264 runs to get on the fifth day, so do not have to score particularly quickly if the weather allows a full day's play. Woodhill said they would have to be watchful early and wait till South Africa start experimenting. "At the start, they will probably go pretty straight at us, trying to take wickets. If we bat well, they will have to try some different things. When they do try to bowl a bit wider, hopefully there will be some runs there. But we have to make sure we don't go chasing balls to sixth and seventh stump."
There were some signs of turn for Imran Tahir late on the fourth day and Jacques Rudolph said he could be South Africa's "X-factor" on the final day. Woodhill, though, was not convinced that spin would play that big a role. "It's slow turn off the pitch. There's some rough there but the track is playing true at the moment.
Edited by Dustin Silgardo