New Zealand 45 (Philander 5-7) v
South Africa 252-3 (Petersen 103no)
First Test, Cape Town, day one
New Zealand would have hoped that the start of a new year would have meant putting the troubles of the last behind them. However, they apparently underestimated the ability of Vernon Philander with the new ball on a moderately helpful Cape Town pitch, with their captain Brendon McCullum, in electing to bat, perhaps showing a degree of misplaced faith in his batsmen’s ability that has rarely been matched in international cricket.
The result of his misplaced optimism was his side’s capitulation for 45 as Philander - a fitness concern for South Africa before the match - took five for seven in six overs of new ball bowling. As if to show how woefully New Zealand had played, and how blameless the pitch is, South Africa then romped to stumps on 252 for three at almost four an over, with Alviro Petersen bringing up the first Test hundred of 2013 from the penultimate over to round off a depressingly one-sided day of Test cricket.
It says a lot that the best moment of the day for New Zealand came in the second over, when they benefited from a wild shy at the stumps from AB de Villiers that resulted in four overthrows. Five balls later, the first of ten wickets in less than 18 overs fell when Martin Guptill feathered a catch through to the South African wicket-keeper, who duly made up for his earlier mistake.
Philander was never likely to bowl a long opening spell owing to his injury, but he didn’t need to. By the time, his six overs came to an end, New Zealand had slipped to 30 for six and were well on the way to being bowled out for the third lowest score in their Test history and lowest since 1974. Only Kane Williamson reached double figures and only three other men scored more than was yielded by de Villiers’ momentary indiscretion.
Philander benefited from a pitch that was tinged with green and offered just enough seam movement to provide what should have been a thrilling day’s Test cricket with a close contest between bat and ball. His line and length were, as ever, immaculate, but, in truth, his excellent figures owed as much to New Zealand’s technical deficiencies as his world class new ball bowling. A first innings score of 200 wouldn’t have been shameful - 280 was probably about par.
It was certainly a pitch that any self-respecting seam bowler would have enjoyed bowling on - a fact that was shown by Graeme Smith’s dismissal before lunch in South Africa’s first innings. It was one of those where the movement on offer was just enough so as to catch the edge of the bat rather than so prodigious that it was repeatedly beaten, but, as Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis subsequently showed, was by no means impossible to score runs on.
Petersen added 107 in the second session with Amla following the early loss of Smith for one. Amla was at his typical elegant and languid best and made the most of some attacking fields set by Brendon McCullum as he tried to wrest back some of the initiative. Amla fell for 66 off 74 balls shortly before tea and must surely be annoyed at missing out on what looked like a certain Test century.
Petersen, who played in a more measured fashion for the most part, made no such mistake. He and Kallis batted for most of the final session and played, at times, as if it was a cross between a one-day game and a warm-up match, apparently trying to outdo each other shot for outlandish shot. Kallis reached 13,000 Test runs with a boundary to join three other greats of the game - Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid - in reaching the landmark. That was the second significant milestone a South African had reached during the day, with Dale Steyn’s castling of Doug Bracewell bringing him his 300th Test wicket.
All in all, the day showed what many had suspected before this series began - namely that South Africa have the most potent new ball attack in world cricket, are undisputed number ones, and would comfortably outclass New Zealand. Worryingly for the game, no-one expected it to be quite this easy. A contest between a team ranked number one and number eight in a sport should never be this one-sided - more evidence, if any were needed, of the gulf in class that is opening up in Test cricket’s higher echelons. The game’s administrators and fans should be concerned.
© Cricket World 2013
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