Bowlers, Williamson script New Zealand fightback on Day 2

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Kane Williamson ended the day unbeaten on 78 to take New Zealand to 177 for 3. © Getty
New Zealand fought their way back into the game courtesy a disciplined bowling effort, followed by patient half-centuries from Kane Williamson and Jeet Raval to end Day 2 at 177 for 3 at the University Oval in Dunedin on Thursday (March 9). If the home side has any concern at the end of second day’s play, its the availability of their star middle-order batsman Ross Taylor who retired hurt with a possible calf muscle tear.

Neil Wagner led the way with the key wicket of centurion Dean Elgar which triggered a collapse. Trent Boult’s four-fer ensured South Africa could manage to add only 79 more runs to their overnight score, losing their six remaining wickets in little over a session on the second morning. Williamson (78 not out) and Raval (52) then put on a century stand, after losing Tom Latham early, to put New Zealand in firm control of the proceedings before the stumps were drawn.

The day started with South Africa’s overnight batsmen Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma continuing their good batting display as South Africa seemed to be running away with the advantage. Elgar went past his previous best Test score of 129 with a lucky boundary that flew over the slip cordon and little later, raised the hundred of his partnership with Bavuma.

Wagner, however, got the reward for persisting with his short-ball tactics as he dismissed the centurion to open the doors for New Zealand’s comeback. The South African opener’s luck ran out as he backtracked from his attempted pull only to give away an edge to the man behind the stumps, ten short of what would have been his maiden 150 in Test cricket. That started a chain reaction, the one which South Africa could not recover from.

Bavuma brought up his fifth Test fifty in the following over but Quinton de Kock fell cheaply soon after to Jeetan Patel. With just the tailenders to follow, Bavuma picked up few boundaries before Boult ended his resistance on 64. Philander’s 21 at the fag end ensured South Africa put on at least 300. Their innings folded for 308 in less than five overs after the Lunch break.

New Zealand’s reply was led by Jeet Raval’s defiant half-century and their captain’s yet another assuring knock. But that wasn’t before Tom Latham poked at a delivery to gift his wicket away when the home side had only 15 runs on the board.

The Williamson-Raval duo put on 44-run stand until Tea, enduring tough spells from both Philander and Rabada. Comeback man Morne Morkel too tested the batsmen but without any luck. Keshav Maharaj leaked quite a few runs, particularly in his opening spell, but at the end of the day the left-arm spinner was also South Africa’s most successful bowler with two key scalps.

Williamson and Raval matched each other shot to shot and pushed the team’s score past the century mark. Raval then drove past the man at mid-off for his sixth boundary that brought up also brought up his third half-century in Test cricket. Williamson wasn’t too far behind. The hosts’ skipper took on Rabada in the next over and launched three consecutive boundaries, raising his 26th fifty and the hundred of the partnership with the last one. The celebrations, however, were short-lived as Maharaj had Raval caught by Elgar at midwicket for the easiest of catches to break the threatening stand.

Into the 43rd over of innings, the home side suffered another setback when Taylor, attempting a second run, appeared to have pulled his calf muscle and had to walk off the field. Taylor did not return for the remainder of the session.

Out-of-form Henry Nicholls’ stay in the middle was brief. He became Maharaj’s second victim of the day, shortly after Williamson guided his team past the 150-mark. The New Zealand skipper was lucky to see an edge drop right in front of the keeper with barely four overs before close of play.

It might have looked Jetan Patel was out there to bide his time, the spinner dispatched Maharaj to the boundary twice, on either side of the wicket, to finish unbeaten on 9.

Brief scores: South Africa 308 (Dean Elgar 140; Temba Bavuma 64; Trent Boult 4-64, Neil Wagner 3-88) lead New Zealand 177/3 (Kane Williamson 78*, Jeet Raval 52; Keshav Maharaj 2-57) by 131 runs.

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