Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency
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At Centurion, November 16, 17, 18, 2007. South Africa won by an innings and 59 runs. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: M. R. Gillespie.
After humiliating New Zealand in the First Test South Africa added injury to insult in the Second, when opening batsman Craig Cumming was hit in the face by a wicked bouncer from Steyn just as the tourists were threatening to produce a respectable batting performance. At 101 for two shortly after lunch on the first day, Vettori's decision to bat first was paying dividends, of a sort, when Steyn unleashed a vicious lifter which Cumming unwisely attempted to hook. He was wretchedly late, and the ball smashed into his helmet visor with such force that it shattered his cheekbone and jaw, necessitating reconstructive surgery involving several metal plates. Effectively, it ended the contest, which was over inside three days.
Cumming had shown great spirit in reaching 48 from 107 balls, and the South Africans were just beginning to wonder whether they might have to work for victory this time. But New Zealand's collective resolve shattered as surely as Cumming's right cheek, and their misery was completed within three days, the second innings lasting less than 35 overs.
On the first day Fleming again showed glimpses of his class before falling to a sucker punch from Kallis, who set his gully deep and then delivered a wide half-volley so tempting that even Fleming, who must have read the trap like a comic book, could not resist. Kallis and Amla then delivered a repeat of their Johannesburg heroics and became the eighth pair in history to record consecutive Test partnerships of over 200. In the process Kallis - who hit his fifth hundred in seven innings - became the first South African to score at least a half-century in eight successive Tests.
Amla was again delighted to play second fiddle to Kallis, whose 29th Test century was the quickest and most dominant of his career, coming up from just 143 balls, with 13 fours and two sixes. He scored 95 between lunch and tea on the second day, to wrest control of the match in a fashion his fans had always believed him capable of, but had long ago despaired of seeing. For a dozen years, Kallis had been prosaic and measured, not ruthless and brutal. The grind was his chosen weapon, not the rapier. Until this season, anyway: he had loosened the shackles in Pakistan a few weeks earlier, and cast them off here.
Occasionally Amla would flick a half-volley through midwicket with the speed of a chameleon catching flies with its tongue, to remind the crowd that he could play, too, but there was only one star, and Amla knew it: "It was a pleasure to be out there with him, once again," he said. "I love batting with Jacques. I've got the best view in the house."
Mark Gillespie, making his debut at 28, led a spirited fightback on the third morning as South Africa's final seven wickets clattered for 101 - 51 of them courtesy of a good old-fashioned ninth-wicket slog by Steyn and Nel, which snuffed out the faintest hope that New Zealand might find a hairline crack through which to re-enter the contest. Gillespie finished with five wickets in an innings (but later became only the fourth man to marry such a debut achievement with a pair).
Had it not been for Fleming's cussed half-century, New Zealand's second innings would not have sniffed three figures. Steyn, by now a nightmarish figure for the embattled tourists, collected six of the nine wickets available, with another going to Amla's astonishing reflex back-handed flick from short leg to run out the nonplussed Taylor. It was all a bit embarrassing in the end.
Man of the Match: D. W. Steyn. Man of the Series: D. W. Steyn.