Second Test

New Zealand v South Africa 1998-1999

At Christchurch, March 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: G. R. Stead.

If the First Test had been dominated by the doped pitch, the Second was at the mercy of the weather. Only the first day ran its course, by which time New Zealand had surrendered any advantage gained by winning the toss. More than 11 hours were lost over the next four days, meaning that Herschelle Gibbs's 211 not out began late on the first and was ended by Cronje's belated declaration on the morning of the fifth. With the row over players of colour still simmering, Gibbs's maiden Test century came as a huge relief for the management - and for him. Before the First Test, he had said that he wanted to be selected on grounds of ability, not race, but a highest score of 54 in 12 previous Tests had led to cries of tokenism. His innings was the perfect riposte. He batted 468 balls and took 659 minutes, one more than Cullinan in the previous Test, so increasing the record for the longest Test innings for South Africa, he hit 23 fours and three sixes in a study of concentration and determination.

This time, Nash got it wrong the other way by batting first. The pitch promised speed, bounce and a little movement while the grass cover remained. Donald confirmed it by cutting the ball back into Young's middle stump in his second over. The South African bowlers relished the assistance after the farcical First Test. At the same time, those New Zealanders who did survive - including the 27-year-old newcomer Gary Stead, drafted in for the injured McMillan after encouraging Shell Trophy form - adopted a curious approach to batting. It was as though they were determined to assure the coachloads of children who had been brought to the ground and admitted free that a Test could be just as entertaining as a one-day game. At lunch, New Zealand were 104 for three after only 26 overs. After the interval, wickets fell steadily. They were dismissed for 168 not long after tea; Pollock took four wickets, Donald three before he broke down with a groin injury.

With the pitch losing its sting in the warm sunshine, Kirsten and Gibbs went comfortably along to 54 without loss by the close, the balance already tilted heavily towards South Africa. Despite showers next morning, they consolidated their position, and Gibbs, after some anxious moments as he neared three figures, completed his first Test hundred. In the half-hour available on the third day, he and Kallis moved the score to 247 for one. And so Cronje faced a problem: he had a 79-run lead, two days left, but more showers forecast. Should he declare how, hope to remove New Zealand in four sessions and try for victory in the last two? He chose to bat on.

Cronje either had more faith in the weather than the locals - in the event only 54 overs were possible on the last day - or avoiding defeat was his main objective. Gibbs and Kallis did improve their scoring-rate as they took their stand to 315, the third-highest Test partnership for South Africa, behind the 341 by Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock at Adelaide in 1963-64 and the 319 by Alan Melville and Dudley Nourse at Trent Bridge in 1947. Coincidentally, Gibbs was the first of four Test double-centurions around the world on Sunday, March 14: Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq hit theirs against Sri Lanka at Dhaka, in the final of the Asian Test Championship, while Brian Lara joined in at Kingston against Australia. Allott was the only New Zealand bowler to emerge with credit, though figures of nought for 109 did not make happy reading. Cronje had no alternative but to declare at the start of the fifth day, 274 ahead, but it was the last, vain throw of some damp dice. The pitch had survived despite being so long under the covers, and Horne and Young enjoyed a pleasant century stand, steering New Zealand to safety as the Test petered out.

Man of the Match; H. H. Gibbs.

Close of the play: First day, South Africa 54-0 (Kirsten 35*, Gibbs 15*); Second day, South Africa 229-1 (Gibbs 101*, Kallis 53*); Third day, South Africa 247-1 (Gibbs 113*, J. H. Kallis 58*); Fourth day, South Africa 442-1 (Gibbs 211*, Kallis 148*).

© John Wisden & Co