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Feature

Four rare occasions when New Zealand won a Test against South Africa

New Zealand have never won a Test series against South Africa. Can they change that this time?

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
14-Feb-2022
New Zealand have never won a Test series against South Africa  •  Getty Images

New Zealand have never won a Test series against South Africa  •  Getty Images

Of the Full Member nations New Zealand have played Test cricket against (all except Ireland and Afghanistan), the only one they have not registered a series win over is South Africa. They've lost 13 out of 16 series against South Africa including all of the last six and ten out of 11 since South Africa's readmission in 1991. In 45 Tests dating back to 1932, New Zealand have only beaten South Africa four times, their worst win-loss ratio against any team.
We take a look at that quartet of victories and one other time New Zealand came close, as they attempt to breach their final frontier - South Africa - in a two-match Test series starting this week.
Cape Town, 1962
New Zealand embarked on this tour with only one Test win to their name - over West Indies in 1956 - and things did not immediately look likely to improve for them. South Africa took the series lead in Durban, thanks to Jackie McGlew's 127 and Peter Pollock's nine-for before New Zealand showed the fight and drew the second Test in Johannesburg. Against expectation, they then squared the series with victory in Cape Town.
John Reid (92) and Zin Harris (101) put on 93 for the fourth wicket before Harris and Murray Chapple (69) shared 148 for the fifth in New Zealand's first-innings total of 385. In response, South Africa were shot out for 190, with Frank Cameron (5 for 48) and Jack Alabaster (4 for 61) sharing nine wickets between them. New Zealand were 61 for 4 at one point in their second innings but recovered to declare on 212 for 9 to set South Africa 408 to win. They were 100 for 2 and 201 for 3 as Roy McLean scored 113 but Alabaster claimed another four and South Africa were bowled out for 335, to give New Zealand only their second Test victory and first away from home.
Port Elizabeth, 1962
South Africa responded to their defeat in Cape Town with an innings-and-51-run win over New Zealand in the fourth Test to put a series win out of their visitor's reach but New Zealand could still share the spoils, and did.
Paul Barton scored the first and only century of his Test career in a line-up where no one else crossed 46 and New Zealand's first innings ended on 275. But again, they dismissed South Africa for 190 and took an 85-run lead. New Zealand were 50 for 3 at one stage in their second innings but Graham Dowling (78) and Reid's (69) 125-run fourth-wicket partnership allowed them to post 228 and set South Africa 314 to win. Again, South Africa appeared to be on track at 101 for 1 before Eddie Barlow was bowled by Reid for 59 as South Africa lost 5 for 41 to teeter on 142 for 6. Peter Pollock's 54 held the lower together but New Zealand kept chipping away and won by 40 runs to level the series 2-2.
Reid finished as the leading run scorer of the series with a tally of 546, 120 more than the second-best McGlew. Some have assessed this series as his best, both as a batter and captain.
Johannesburg, 1994
It would be more than 30 years before New Zealand had the opportunity to beat South Africa and they did so in the first meeting between the two teams post-isolation.
Martin Crowe (83), Ken Rutherford (68) and Shane Thomson (84) scored half-centuries as New Zealand piled on 411 in their first innings before Dion Nash and Richard de Groen reduced South Africa to 73 for 4. Daryll Cullinan's 58 prevented a complete collapse in the top six and Dave Richardson's 93 took South Africa over 200 but nowhere close to 400. They were bowled out for 279, 132 behind. In New Zealand's second innings, Fanie de Villiers took four wickets and Craig Matthews one to leave them 34 for 5 but Adam Parore's 49 helped New Zealand build a target. Matthews (5 for 42) ran through New Zealand's lower order and they were all out for 194, having set South Africa 327. Doull (4 for 33) and left-arm spinner Matthew Hart's career-best 5 for 77 ensured South Africa were bowled out for under 200 as New Zealand earned a comfortable win.
But they could not sustain the momentum from that match and were dismissed for under 200 in both innings in Durban, where South Africa won by eight wickets, and conceded too many runs in South Africa's first innings in Cape Town and lost the series 2-1.
Auckland, 2004
A decade after their Johannesburg joy, New Zealand beat South Africa for the first time at home, when they took the series lead in Auckland after a high-scoring draw in the first Test in Hamilton. After scoring 509 in their first innings of the first Test, New Zealand went many better with 595 in the second match, still their highest against South Africa. That was in response to South Africa's 296, a total that should have been much higher after Graeme Smith (88) and Herschelle Gibbs (80) put on 177 for the first wicket. South Africa's ten wickets fell for 119, with Chris Martin taking 6 for 76. He finished the match with 11 for 180, his career-best.
Two other New Zealand players also reached their career highs in this match. Scott Styris (170) and Chris Cairns (158) both registered their highest scores as New Zealand took a 299-run lead.
Smith was dismissed for a first-ball duck by Martin in the second innings. Gibbs (61), Jacques Rudolph (154) and Jacques Kallis (71) kept New Zealand at bay for a while but South Africa eventually lost 7 for 99 to leave New Zealand needing 51 to win. They got there to take a 1-0 lead but went on to lose the third and final Test in Wellington.
And the one that could have been…
Hamilton, 2017
South Africa inflicted another Wellington heartbreak on New Zealand when they took the series lead after a draw in Dunedin but New Zealand had a golden opportunity to level matters in Hamilton. They had South Africa 5 for 2 in the first innings before Hashim Amla (50), Faf du Plessis (53) and Quinton de Kock (90) built the total to 314. However, none of them could match Kane Williamson's brilliance as he scored 176. New Zealand's first innings ended on 489, with a lead of 175.
With four sessions left in the game, the smart money would have been on the draw but South Africa were reduced to 80 for 5 in 39 overs on the fourth evening and looked rattled. It rained overnight and for most of the fifth day to deny New Zealand. Of the XI that played for South Africa in that Test, only Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada are part of the current squad. New Zealand have five players from that match in their group this time: Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry and Neil Wagner.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent