First Test


Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: D. J. Murray.

New Zealand's convincing win stunned South Africa, who were playing their first home Test without Kepler Wessels since their readmission to world cricket. His successor as captain, Cronje, led the pursuit of 327 in four and a half sessions, with 62, but had minimal support from the middle order. The South Africans crumbled on the final morning on a worn pitch. The game was full of twists and turns, with New Zealand's first-innings 411 eventually decisive. Both sides distrusted the pitch but it played well enough until the fourth day, when the cracks visible from the start had widened enough to help the faster bowlers.

New Zealand could have lost several wickets on the first morning, with De Villiers particularly unlucky. Fleming, who batted frenetically, was dropped at fine leg and played and missed many times before De Villiers finally bowled him after lunch. Crowe, displaying his class, and Rutherford took the innings to a healthy 218 for three. Rutherford had just hit Eksteen for six, but the next ball was bravely tossed up and was well held by Cronje at mid-off. Early next day, Crowe was lbw to Snell for 83 and Parore and Hart soon followed; 280 for seven looked like a waste of batting first, especially as South Africa were without the injured Donald. But Thomson held the tail together in a combative 84 with 15 fours, mostly off the back foot, and Doull and De Groen shared a tenth-wicket stand of 57. That gave New Zealand a commanding 411.

South Africa were 38 for three within an hour, with Hudson first to go. Controversially, he walked for a catch by Parore which, television showed, had bounced. Cullinan's 58 started a recovery which Richardson continued. Batting with a guard on his broken right thumb, he scored 93 out of 132 added in his three hours at the wicket, and South Africa avoided the follow-on. Crowe had some consolation for missing his hundred when he caught Snell and surpassed Jeremy Coney's New Zealand record of 64 Test catches.

De Villiers bowled brilliantly when New Zealand resumed, 132 ahead. He trapped debutant Darrin Murray first ball, then, after changing ends, dismissed Crowe, Rutherford and Young in nine balls, reducing them to 34 for five. Thomson and Parore held firm and on the fourth day extended their partnership to 69. With useful contributions from Hart and Nash, a total of 194 left South Africa needing 327 on a wearing pitch.

Even though New Zealand's strike bowler, Nash, suffered a side strain which was to end his tour, Doull took four wickets and left-arm spinner Hart shrewdly used the rough from over the wicket to gain a Test-best five for 77. South Africa, who began the final day 198 behind with eight wickets standing, lost their last seven for 39 before lunch. Doull's match figures of six for 103, plus 45 runs without being dismissed, earned him the match award.

Man of the Match: S. B. Doull.

Close of play: First day, New Zealand 242-4 (M. D. Crowe 81*, S. A. Thomson 5*); Second day, South Africa 109-4 (D. J. Cullinan 35*, J. N. Rhodes 23*); Third day, New Zealand 81-5 (S. A. Thomson 14*, A. C. Parore 32*); Fourth day, South Africa 128-2 (B. M. McMillan 42*, W. J. Cronje 34*).

© John Wisden & Co