South Africa 325-4 (Amla 106no, du Plessis 69no) v
Second Test, Port Elizabeth, day one
The first day of Test cricket at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth since 2007 saw a much better performance from New Zealand than that witnessed on day one in Cape Town less than a fortnight ago. Nonetheless, it is once again South Africa, thanks to Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, who end it firmly on top.
Both men benefited from major reprieves, with perhaps the key moment of the day coming when Amla was dropped by Kane Williamson in the gully.
It had been Graeme Smith who, earlier, had won the toss and had to make the tricky decision of what to do on a pitch that would offer assistance for the bowers throughout the day. He, as Brendon McCullum had done in Cape Town, chose to bat. The difference was that his top-order showed markedly more resolve and far better technique than New Zealand’s had back then. New Zealand had been bowled out for 45 inside the first session in Cape Town. Today, South Africa reached lunch at 99 for one.
Granted, they had moments of good fortune, with Alviro Petersen, Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla all playing and missing on occasions. Petersen was the only wicket to fall in the first session, despite some, at times, impressive bowling, especially from Doug Bracewell. He was caught off a short ball by Jeetan Patel at fine-leg. Smith was also troubled by a short ball from Bracewell, being struck on the helmet and was not at his best.
However, he survived through until the break and had made 54 before becoming the first of two wickets which would lift New Zealand, momentarily, in the afternoon session. Kallis was the other, caught behind off Bracewell for just eight, to precede what would turn out to be New Zealand’s biggest mistake.
When on 48, with the score on 152 for three, Amla aimed a cut uppishly towards Kane Williamson in the gully. And was dropped. In that moment, New Zealand had grassed the chance that could have seen South Africa dismissed for around 300 and offered them a glimmer of a way back in the series. Instead, they ended on 325 for four, with Amla, again imperious, unbeaten on 106.
He added 86 with his captain AB de Villiers (51) and an unbroken 102 with Faf du Plessis (69 not out). Du Plessis benefited from one moment of fortune - traditionalists may call it dishonesty - when he gloved a ball down the leg-side late in the day and convinced both the umpire and New Zealand that he hadn’t hit it.
In truth, by then, New Zealand’s moment had already passed. In allowing South Africa to get a total that looks like being in excess of 400, they have already kissed goodbye any slim hopes they might have had of levelling the two-match series. South Africa’s potent pace attack will fancy causing the fragile New Zealand batting line-up yet more problems tomorrow on a pitch that looks as though it will reward good seam bowling throughout.
© Cricket World 2013
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