At Cape Town, April 27, 28, 29, 30, May 1, 2006. Drawn. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: J. S. Patel.
On the face of it, Stephen Fleming's 262 was the main reason to remember this match. But New Zealand had the best of it in other ways too: Franklin's unbeaten century from No. 9, and Jeetan Patel's assured debut with bat and ball. Fleming became the first New Zealander to score three Test double-centuries, while his partnership of 256 with Franklin was their highest against South Africa. In return, there were also centuries for Amla - a maiden hundred, in his first Test for 15 months - and Prince. Gibbs, citing "mental fatigue'', was dropped. But this match will stick in the mind mainly for the proof it provided of the folly of playing cricket in South Africa at this time of year.
The first day's play was delayed by a damp outfield, and ended prematurely by bad light. The dreary ordinariness of those minor inconveniences failed to prepare those involved for the bizarre scene that greeted them on the second morning. Dense fog rendered Table Mountain about as visible as a polar bear in a blizzard, while Newlands' bulky stands were eerie shadows. Out in the middle, a flame glowed incongruously. It burst from the end of a blowtorch, being used by the groundstaff to dry repairs to the footholes. The outfield, meanwhile, looked like a dodgem-car rink at a funfair. It was ruled by the head groundsman, who veered this way and that at the controls of a hovercraft, summoned from Durban to deal with the dew. The fun lasted for 90 minutes... then it was back to the comparative bleakness of the cricket.
Smith was criticised for inserting New Zealand, who declared just short of 600, but he had felt that his bowlers' best chance of success was on the first day. Ntini and Steyn took their captain's theory to heart in an opening session in which edges fell tantalisingly short of grasping hands. New Zealand did slip to 82 for three after lunch, but Fleming settled, and duly reached his ninth Test century.
South Africa took six wickets on the first day, but did not start their innings until an hour into the third, thanks to the positive play of Fleming and Franklin. Fleming survived a sitter to Dippenaar at first slip off Steyn when 136 in the first over after lunch on the second day, while Franklin gave a more difficult chance to Kallis at second slip off Ntini at 28. But the New Zealanders successfully absorbed what pressure Smith was able to impose. Fleming eventually fell to the occasional bowling of Prince, after 576 minutes, 423 balls, 31 fours and two sixes. Again the South Africans thought the age they had spent in the field was near its end, only for Patel to show a steady bat to usher Franklin to his maiden Test century. Franklin became only the fourth person to have achieved both a Test hundred and a hat-trick, following Johnny Briggs of England and the Pakistani pair of Abdul Razzaq and Wasim Akram.
Amla and Prince batted with patience and application to earn worthy centuries before South Africa were bowled out shortly after lunch on the fifth day. Patel, a 25-year-old off-spinner from Wellington whose parents emigrated to New Zealand from India, was rewarded for some plucky bowling with three wickets.
Man of the Match: S. P. Fleming.