First Test Match

South Africa v New Zealand 2007-08

At Johannesburg, November 8, 9, 10, 11, 2007. South Africa won by 358 runs. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: L. R. P. L. Taylor.

When South Africa were bowled out for 226 after boldly choosing to bat on a threatening pitch featuring both grass and cracks, there was little to suggest that the match was going to provide them with their largest Test victory - and New Zealand's heaviest defeat - in terms of runs. But that is what happened. South Africa's modest innings included resolute knocks from Gibbs, who batted for more than three hours, Boucher and de Villiers, but New Zealand responded with a dismal display of batting in which no one managed to survive even 50 balls, exhibiting a collective inability to cope with the pitch's variations, particularly its steep bounce. They crashed to an embarrassing 118 all out, and suddenly South Africa were in total control.

The New Zealanders may have been sitting ducks, but they still needed shooting - and Steyn was ruthlessly efficient in so doing. Only Fleming, having played a fullish season of county cricket, looked remotely comfortable, and no one else passed 15.

However, comfort was something Kallis and Amla oozed during the second innings, and their partnership of 330 made a mockery of the batsmen's struggles during the first day and a half. Kallis, in particular, was so dominant after reaching 100 with a six off Vettori that Amla, who had matched him that far, was more than 50 adrift by the time his partner was out. Their stand was the highest for any South African wicket at the Wanderers and, although both Bond and Oram broke down with injuries, they did bowl more than 30 overs between them.

The main focus of the South Africans' attention as the stand passed 300 was whether Kallis could finally overcome the only blot on his otherwise impeccable career record - the absence of a double-century. His team-mates had taken up position on the dressingroom balcony in readiness for the celebration but, with 14 still needed, he edged one of Oram's final deliveries to the keeper. This innings took him past 9,000 runs, well clear of the next-highest aggregate without a double-century, 8,463 by Alec Stewart. Kallis's 28 hundreds were also well beyond the 22 each from Colin Cowdrey and Mohammad Azharuddin, neither of whom reached 200. "Of course I hope to get there one day," said Kallis afterwards. "But I'm happy with a hundred on this pitch, never mind 186. I blame Wynberg Boys' High School, they obviously didn't teach me to count to 200. I can't get past 180."

Amla's innings was altogether different. At eight hours 31 minutes, it was over two hours (and 116 balls) longer than Kallis's. It contained several lengthy periods of inactivity, but Amla's credentials as a No. 3, severely questioned before this series, were enhanced with every minute he spent at the crease. By the time the declaration came his career average had moved into the thirties, and at last, after 16 Tests, Amla finally believed he belonged. Asked what effect the innings might have on his career, he replied: "It should keep me in the team for the next game." It was tacit acknowledgment that he would almost certainly have been dropped if he had failed but, thanks to McCullum, who missed a sitter off Bond when Amla had only two, he was not.

New Zealand crumbled again in the face of a theoretical target of 531. Stubborn innings from Oram and Vettori - leading by example in his first Test as captain - prolonged the match beyond lunch on the fourth day, but overall Steyn was simply too good and too fast.

Man of the Match: D. W. Steyn.

© Wisden Cricketers' Almanack