New Zealand 361 for 7 (Styris 74, Papps 59, McCullum 57, Kallis 3-61) trail South Africa 459 by 98 runs
A thrill-a-minute 57 from Brendon McCullum, allied to the obduracy and strength of Jacob Oram, dug New Zealand out of a hole on the third day of the opening Test against South Africa at Westpac Park. They were also indebted to Scott Styris, whose sedate 74 knitted the first half of the innings together. At stumps, New Zealand were 361 for 7, still 98 in arrears.
McCullum, who was making his Test debut after 48 one-day appearances, announced his intent with the very first ball after tea, driving Andre Nel on the up to the mid-off boundary. Though he had his moments of discomfort on a pitch where Paul Adams was able to get the ball to turn almost square - huge puffs of dust, and even flying chunks of turf, accompanied balls that were speared into the bowlers' footmarks - he bided his time and played some glorious cuts and drives when offered some width.
He and Oram had come together with New Zealand precariously placed at 225 for 6, but a few meaty blows after tea ensured that the follow-on target of 260 was surpassed with ease. That didn't stop McCullum, who displayed the positive approach that had been eschewed by every other batsman, barring Chris Cairns.
Oram soon caught on, using his height and immense power to belt pace and spin alike over the midwicket fielder. They added 84 before Jacques Kallis, the pick of South Africa's bowlers on the day, got McCullum to inside-edge one through to Mark Boucher (309 for 7).
Daniel Vettori then illustrated why he has a Test hundred to his name, as New Zealand finished much the stronger against an attack that had run low on inspiration and energy. Oram could have been stumped off Adams's bowling late in the day, but Boucher failed to get a glove on the ball with Oram stranded a long way out of the crease.
It hadn't gone New Zealand's way in the morning, as the bowlers established a stranglehold, conceding only 42 runs in the 27 overs bowled. Michael Papps, 50 overnight, added only nine more before being given out leg-before to Kallis (127 for 3). The ball struck him just outside the line, but after turning down several appeals earlier, Steve Davis, the umpire, was inclined to be charitable.
Styris and an out-of-sorts Craig McMillan then crawled to lunch, showing little desire to take the initiative against a bowling line-up that was never menacing. McMillan made just 19 before becoming the fourth leg-before victim of the innings. Kallis was again the fortunate bowler, and the ball had darted back enough to suggest that it might have missed leg stump (172 for 4).
Cairns started circumspectly, but cut loose when the new ball was taken in the 85th over. Shaun Pollock saw one smashed back past him with a tennis follow-through, and was then on the receiving end of a superb cover-drive. That prompted Graeme Smith to move a man from gully to short cover, and Cairns delighted in taking the mickey by cutting the next ball past where gully had been.
At the other end Styris Styris defended stoutly, and played some attractive cuts and sweeps when Adams erred in line or length. It was his dismissal, bowled by one from Pollock that darted back in, that triggered the wobble before tea. Cairns, in fine touch during his 28, soon followed, tickling a short-pitched ball down the leg side from Makhaya Ntini through to Boucher (225 for 6).
At that stage, the follow-on appeared a distinct possibility. McCullum and Oram, who finished the day unbeaten on 49, then combined to make sure that it was anything but, as the tired South Africans were given the runaround in the final session.