1st Test

New Zealand v South Africa, 2011-12

At Dunedin (University Oval), March 7-11, 2012. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand. Test debuts: R. J. Nicol, C. F. K. van Wyk.


Jacques Rudolph defends with a straight bat, New Zealand v South Africa, 1st Test, Dunedin, 4th day, March 10, 2012
Jacques Rudolph: showed genuine class at No. 6 © AFP
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Rain washed out the final day of a compelling game. Set 401 in well over four sessions, New Zealand concluded the fourth evening on 137 for two with their marquee batsmen, McCullum and Taylor, well set. Talk about the possibilities was bold, but the reality was far less compelling. They required another 264 against a high-class attack. New Zealand deserved at least some hope, because of the apparent ease with which McCullum and Taylor had accumulated 82 in 21 overs. In truth, though, some of that hope stemmed from charity: South Africa had declared their second innings only five down.

On the first day, Martin's tried and trusted seam bowling had knocked the stuffing out of the tourists' first innings: the exalted trio of Smith, Kallis and de Villiers perished in the space of four deliveries from him, with Smith starting the stumble to 90 for four with a loose drive into a glaring trap at cover just after tea. But Rudolph showed the value of genuine class at No. 6, and South Africa scraped something presentable together, although it was at least 100 short of par.

When New Zealand reached 106 for two in reply, McCullum and Taylor should have steered them to something much better, but McCullum nudged a full toss back to legspinner Imran Tahir, and Taylor slashed outside off stump against the pace of Morkel. Vettori's elevation to No. 6 was under close scrutiny and, batting with his customary lower-order unorthodoxy, he so nearly made a difference. But Kallis launched a sustained, short-pitched attack, before diving forward to claim a low return catch as Vettori fended a lifter away from his ribcage. It was yet another example of the ageing Kallis's ability to manufacture the odd much-needed wicket, as opposed to the sporadic clumps he took in his youth.

Wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk, called up two days before the Test because B-J. Watling had a sore hip, showed all the doughty resistance his former countrymen expected. Determined to play international cricket but unlikely to usurp Mark Boucher in South Africa, the diminutive van Wyk - born in maize-farming country in the North West Province - had emigrated six years earlier in search of brighter prospects. Now 32, he became the first to make his Test debut against the country of his birth since the Hollioake brothers, Adam and Ben, against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1997. On one internal flight, van Wyk (presumably because of his name) was inadvertently seated among his South African opponents.

New Zealand closed the second day with a fragile lead of five, and the hapless Martin at one end. Yet he doubled the lead on the third morning with a single stroke - a block-and-run to cover against Steyn, which would have led to his run-out by half the pitch if Petersen's throw had hit; instead it went to the boundary. Boult then delivered a frenzied attack on Philander's first over of the day, which yielded 22 - a trio of sixes and a four.

Martin went next over, and the lead was still only 35, but it was a withering slap to South African faces. Smith and Kallis restored order and dignity with a masterclass of accumulation for most of the third day. There was no special tactic, no bowler specifically targeted, no mistakes made and no chances offered - just patience, unforgiving punishment of the bad balls, and the systematic placing of their team in the ascendancy. Kallis's 42nd Test hundred took him past Ricky Ponting to second on the all-time list.

Rudolph's century, the third of the innings, was built of similar stuff, but owed more than a slice of luck to a let-off just before stumps. He had 12 when Aleem Dar's lbw decision in favour of Bracewell was overturned, after Virtual Eye showed the ball to have pitched fractionally outside leg stump. Rudolph was so convinced he was out that he started walking, but he was persuaded by Kallis to give it a go.

Smith's declaration equation included "strong possibilities of showers in the morning". In fact, it started raining on the fourth evening - and didn't stop.

Man of the Match: G. C. Smith.
Close of play: first day, South Africa 191-7 (Rudolph 46, Philander 4); second day, New Zealand 243-9 (Boult 8, Martin 0); third day, South Africa 268-3 (Kallis 107, Rudolph 13); fourth day, New Zealand 137-2 (McCullum 58, Taylor 48).

© John Wisden & Co.