South Africa fight back to take crucial lead

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Quinton de Kock stroked 10 boundaries and three sixes in his 91-run knock © AFP

South Africa turned the tables in the second Test in Wellington against New Zealand following a spirited fightback in the second and final session on Friday (March 17).

The lower order rallied to take the tourists past New Zealand’s first innings total of 268, and at stumps on the second day, South Africa finished with 349 for 9, taking a lead of 81 runs.

The possibility of the visitors taking a lead appeared very slim following their disastrous start in the morning session. Kagiso Rabada departed in the second over of the day after Tim Southee breached his defence, but Hashim Amla and JP Duminy hit a few boundaries off the seamers to ease the early nerves.

Duminy though, fell to a poor stroke, hitting a half volley on leg stump straight to the short midwicket fielder. Amla followed him in similar fashion to give Colin de Grandhomme his second wicket. Just when it appeared as if Faf du Plessis and Temba Bavuma would guide their side to safety at lunch, the South African skipper fell victim to another ordinary stroke. He chased a full and wide delivery and inside edged it to the wicketkeeper.

South Africa came back in strong fashion immediately after the break as Quinton de Kock began breaking loose. Bavuma, at the other end, was his composed self as his partner found the boundary at regular intervals to bring up a 55-ball half-century. New Zealand’s ploy to keep bowling short to the left-hander didn’t work as he cut and pulled repeatedly.

Eventually, Bavuma also got to his fifty as the partnership went past hundred. The concern was evident at the New Zealand camp with South Africa not losing even a single wicket in the second session. The batsmen continued to score freely post the break as de Kock unleashed himself upon Jeetan Patel. He came down the track to hit one over long on for his third six of the innings and a few overs later, cut one past point off the same bowler to move into the eighties.

Just when he was looking good for a century, James Neesham provided the timely breakthrough by getting one to go across the left-hander, which was edged behind to the keeper. Vernon Philander then pulled Neesham towards the midwicket boundary to help his side go past New Zealand’s total. Bavuma also missed out on his century when he mistimed a pull off Neil Wagner.

The misery was far from over though for the home side even though they got rid of Keshav Maharaj for just one. Philander and Morne Morkel continued to fight and frustrate New Zealand by batting for almost 14 overs, adding 47 runs in the process.

Morkel hit a hat-trick of boundaries off Wagner against the brand new ball and went on to survive a review for leg-before-wicket. There was a little bit of concern towards the end when Southee struck the left-hander on his helmet but after receiving treatment from the physio, he pulled through to bat out the remaining overs as South Africa finished the day on a high.

Brief scores: South Africa 349/9 (Quinton de Kock 91, Temba Bavuma 89; Colin de Grandhomme 3-52, Neil Wagner 3-96) lead New Zealand 268 by 81 runs.

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