New Zealand have a maiden Test hundred from Dean Brownlie to provide some consolation at
the end of a Test which they will want to forget, but although they could slow the South African
juggernaut they were not about to escape its inevitable destination. Victory fell to South Africa by
an innings and 27 runs with tea approaching on the third day at Newlands and, if New Zealand's humiliation was no longer quite as stark, they were comprehensively outplayed.
Brownlie's mix of ability and spirit was a suitable reminder that New Zealand need players
possessing not just one of those qualities in abundance, but both as they seek to remedy one of the most challenging periods in their recent history. They are unlikely to compete in the second Test in Port Elizabeth - it is Nos. 1 v 8 in the Test rankings and a weakened squad is not about to disguise that - but they will be desperate to regroup in time for a home Test series against England in March.
Vernon Philander needed only 26 deliveries to take five New Zealand wickets first time around as South Africa inflicted the lowest score on a Test side for 39 years, an explosive start to the Test that deservedly won him the man-of-the-match award. In contrast, it took him 22 overs to take a wicket in the second innings, which said something about New Zealand's response to adversity, and his exertions were not without their concerns as he left the field near the end for treatment on the hamstring strain that almost ruled him out of the Test.
After pulverising their opponents on the opening day, the only question for South Africa was exactly when an overwhelming victory would be completed. In removing BJ Watling, the last recognised batsman, Philander immediately pronounced that the end was near. New Zealand's last six wickets brought another 106 on the third day, but the last five wickets fell in ten overs and it was all rounded off by a comical run out of Chris Martin, whose inability at No, 11 has been well chronicled, but who could bat blindfolded with a banana and it would not begin to justify such a farcical conclusion.
South Africa can take much pride in such a triumphant restatement of their power in their first home Test for a year. It was far better for New Zealand to reflect merely upon Brownlie. Here was a batsman trying to make a name for himself, reaching a maiden Test century in a manner that was the stuff of dreams. He skipped down the pitch without a care in the world to the left-arm spin of Robin Peterson and deposited him over long-on for six. The catch was held in the crowd by a small boy who watched himself on the big screen and will probably cherish the moment just as long.
That was the dream sequence; with the second new ball came the wake-up call. Brownlie and
Watling had whittled down South Africa's commanding first-innings lead of 302 on an obdurate morning and Graeme Smith summoned the new ball with an air of impatience with the lunch interval only minutes away. His decision came up trumps as Morne Morkel banged the fourth
delivery in short of a length, Brownlie went for the cut as he had so often, but the extra bounce
deceived him and he holed out to Peterson, stationed for that very eventuality at deep-backward
It felt like a naïve dismissal, brought about by good captaincy, but Brownlie deserved only good
memories. The confident manner in which he achieved that maiden Test century brought a
celebratory dash to a mettlesome innings which had sent New Zealand's mood soaring.
Brownlie preferred to combat Peterson's left-arm spin on the back foot and even on a pitch offering little turn it got him into a tangle on occasions, but Steyn and Morkel's natural length was too short to take advantage of the uneven bounce available on a fullish length and Philander was also seen off with relative comfort. The pitch had lost the zip that exposed New Zealand on the first morning and Brownlie, comfortable on the back foot, rarely erred.
His first Test hundred, in his eighth Test was a characterful one - a dashing start as he peppered the boundary square on the off side, dropped twice on 23, a more cautious outlook against the old ball as he resumed on 69, with lots of swaying and leaving on the back foot, and finally a leap through the 90s with two sixes in consecutive overs against Peterson - the first of them a long hop that he hauled over midwicket.
Philander's chance with the new ball came after lunch so he could have a session on the physio's bench before bowling. He had only two overs before he was switched to the Kelvin Grove End for the first time and in the match and his threat grew as a result. In successive overs, he had James Franklin dropped at gully, a low chance for Alviro Petersen, Watling's resistance for three-and-a-half hours in making 42 ended at first slip, and Doug Bracewell went for nought, squared up for another slip catch, this time at third.
New Zealand were still 50 runs away from making South Africa bat a second time and it became apparent that they were hopelessly equipped for the task. Jeetan Patel, at No. 9, lacked the technique or courage to deal with Steyn (neither attribute comes easily, as many can testify) and he had been struck on the body and backed away to square leg several times before he chopped Steyn onto his stumps as he retreated some more.
Steyn was not about to abandon a short-ball policy at this juncture. Franklin, like Watling, had
become New Zealand's second batting verruca - painful, unsightly and taking some shifting - but he went across his stumps to try to turn him behind square and dragged the ball onto his stumps. Finally, farcically, came the run out of Martin, run out for nought without facing a ball, sent back after attempting an impossible second to Steyn at fine leg to stay off strike.