If day one in Cape Town had never happened, then today in Port Elizabeth may rank as New Zealand’s worst in Test cricket in recent times. They watched South Africa transfer their promising overnight total of 325 for four into a monumental one of 525 for eight declared, and were then again clueless when faced with the best fast-bowling attack in Test cricket - collapsing to 47 for six by stumps.
Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis had earlier become the second and third centurions of the innings behind Hashim Amla, with Elgar becoming South Africa’s ninth different Test century maker in the past 12 months. It was then over to Messrs Morkel, Kleinveldt and Steyn to do their demolition job on New Zealand’s weak batting line-up.
Martin Guptill almost went fourth ball, but was dropped at slip by Jacques Kallis. However, unlike Amla’s yesterday, this one wasn’t to prove costly. Amla had added a further 62 before offering another chance, whereas Guptill could manage just one before edging behind to Alviro Petersen in the packed slip cordon off Dale Steyn. Guptill has now made just two runs in his last three Test innings - and 119 in his last 11 - and looks all at sea outside off-stump.
Kane Williamson didn’t fare much better and was also soon snicking off off Steyn after wafting loosely at a relatively wide delivery. That made it eight for two and, after some brief resistance from Brendon McCullum and Dean Brownlie, the stream of wickets continued.
Brownlie can, in no way, be blamed for his dismissal. He had looked relatively assured prior to receiving a brute of a ball from Rory Kleinveldt, which climbed off a length and brushed his glove on the way through to AB de Villiers. Daniel Flynn, though, will be left with much to ponder. To his fourth ball, he planted a determined right foot down the pitch to Kleinveldt, tried to move it out of the way as the ball swung in, only to be struck full on the pads. Out of all of the technical shortcomings that New Zealand’s batsmen have exhibited in this series, Flynn’s premature planting of his front foot is one of the more glaring ones.
With stumps fast approaching, New Zealand then suffered a double blow that they could well have done without. After looking a class above most of his counterparts and reining in his natural attacking instincts for so long, New Zealand’s captain Brendon McCullum, was lured into wafting at a wide one almost immediately following the introduction of left-arm spinner Robin Peterson. The next ball, debutant Colin Munro lunged forward and edged a catch to Dean Elgar at short-leg.
That dismissal summed up the kind of day that New Zealand and Elgar had had. The former had been found wanting against a superb bowling attack, while the latter had overcome his early difficulties against the tourists’ new-ball bowlers to notch up his maiden Test hundred.
Elgar had found life difficult following the departure of Hashim Amla early in the day, as had his partner Faf du Plessis, who was struck a painful blow to the area of the body known euphemistically as the groin.
New Zealand’s opening pair of Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult had caused multiple problems early, with the first 10 overs yielding just 11 runs, as well as the wicket of Amla. However, as the change bowlers tired along with the attack in general, life became considerably easier.
Both du Plessis and Elgar were stranded in the nineties during breaks in play, with du Plessis walking off for a tense lunch on 99 and Elgar reaching tea on 91. Both men, though, reached three figures, with Elgar’s coming immediately before Graeme Smith’s declaration and soon after tea.
Ironically, New Zealand can perhaps draw inspiration from Elgar. He had looked clueless on debut against Australia, making a pair; and scratchy in Cape Town and early on here. However, he persevered and made the most of the talent that he must have to have reached this level, and finally delivered. New Zealand’s failing batsmen - Kane Williamson, Marin Guptill and Daniel Flynn in particular - are also talented, as they have shown in the past, and must persevere in the manner of Elgar if they are to deliver the goods. If they continue to fail, then New Zealand face many more days like today as the alternatives - back home on the domestic circuit - are thin on the ground.
© Cricket World 2013
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