2nd Test

South Africa v New Zealand, 2012-13

Neil Manthorp

At Port Elizabeth, January 11-14, 2013. South Africa won by an innings and 193 runs. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: C. Munro.


Dean Elgar made his first significant score in Test cricket, South Africa v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth, 2nd day, January 12, 2013
Dean Elgar scored his maiden Test hundred © Associated Press
Enlarge

It was obvious from the outset that the St George's Park groundstaff - preparing for their first Test in more than five years - had taken South Africa coach Gary Kirsten's request for "lively" pitches seriously. Such was his uncertainty about the right course, Smith admitted he was hoping McCullum would call correctly at the toss. He did not. Smith chose to bat, and contributed a tidy half-century to a total that was at least 200 above par, on a dry and unusually cracked wicket which produced unpredictable bounce from the first morning, then got lower. When South Africa reached 325 for four by the close, there was a universal sense of foreboding for New Zealand and their fragile batting line-up.

Smith declared shortly after tea next day, allowing his fellow left-hander Dean Elgar to complete an aggressive century - a spirited U-turn to a Test career which had begun with a pair on debut two games earlier, at Perth. Thereafter, New Zealand descended towards defeat with the inevitability of a sunset - all that changed was the position from which it was viewed.

Amla assessed conditions brilliantly from early in his innings - and probably before he'd faced a ball. He clinically removed some of the more productive and adventurous shots from his repertoire, notably square of the wicket; the unreliable bounce made them unworthy of the risk. The result was a 19th Test century of exquisite minimalism which, oddly, made it just as compelling as some of his more vivid offerings, though he was missed by Williamson in the gully on 48. Three or four years earlier such a century would have taken him many hours and hundreds of balls. Now the fledgling-great Amla required just 187, while striking only eight fours.

Even de Villiers struggled for timing, but New Zealand's three main seamers grew tired and disconsolate as the ball resolutely refused to take the edge; Patel, too, bowled as well as a conventional off-spinner could hope to. By the time du Plessis had settled in with a couple of rasping cover-drives (thanks to Amla's stickability, he could afford to gamble on the bounce), New Zealand shoulders were drooping. The total was already too high, at 286 for four, when they granted du Plessis an outrageous life on 42. After blatantly gloving Boult down the leg side, he snatched his bottom hand off the bat, and his near-miss play-acting proved so convincing that McCullum and his lieutenants eventually decided against a review. Within seconds, the dressing-room alerted them to the clanger they had dropped.

Reasoning that the dog had chosen to lie down of its own accord, du Plessis decided that kicking it was fair enough. All his risks paid off, including a pair of sixes to reach 50 and pass 100. It was impressive and entertaining. Elgar, too, was prepared to leave the crease when facing Patel and the medium-pace of debutant Colin Munro, and landed a series of blows - admittedly into a punch bag.

Vernon Philander's dicky hamstring had ruled him out this time, but Steyn was so overdue a bagful of wickets he would have been induced had he been pregnant. He ripped out the first two via the slip cordon (after Kallis, unusually, had dropped one in the first over), and returned to leave New Zealand 62 for nine and every observer red-faced at the prospect of another two-figure total. But Watling found a decent hitter in Boult, and the last pair came within three of doubling the score.

Guptill would have compiled the lowest two-Test aggregate by an opener in history had the DRS not saved him from a third-ball duck, caught behind off his shoulder rather than the bat's. What would have been a sequence of 1, 0, 1, 0 became 1, 0, 1, 48 - but in the face of a follow-on deficit of 404, it was still insufficient. As at Cape Town, Brownlie and Watling showed some fight, but it was pillows against machine guns. South Africa wrapped up their biggest win against New Zealand on the fourth morning, surpassing an innings and 180 runs at Wellington 60 years earlier.

Man of the Match: D. W. Steyn.

Close of play: first day, South Africa 325-4 (Amla 106, du Plessis 69); second day, New Zealand 47-6 (Watling 15, Bracewell 3); third day, New Zealand 157-4 (Brownlie 44, Watling 41).

© John Wisden & Co.