There is an 80% forecast for rain on the fifth day, with a draw the most likely result between New Zealand and South Africa.
However, the South African captain, Faf du Plessis, must feel that even if the rain abates and there are between 50 and 60 overs of play possible under heavy skies, then they have a real chance of going 1-0 up. I can’t see how New Zealand can win.
The hosts, while taking five wickets on the day that restricted South Africa to 226-6, and a lead of 191, will have it all to do, even if the weatherman gets it wrong with his forecast. There have been 95 overs budgeted for the day – although that number is way too ambitious.
The scoring rate in the Test so far hasn’t exceeded three runs to the over, and with the University Oval pitch in Dunedin taking grip and spin, my belief is that with that lead of 191, the Proteas can afford a quick flurry of the bat and that 220 would be more than enough to defend under the conditions. Perhaps even the 191 is enough as it stands. On day four Dean Elgar and Du Plessis batted responsibly to both knock up impressive fifties under trying circumstances.
Yet, in a three-match series, Du Plessis would err on the side of caution and will want to get more than his team now have in the bank, or wait to be bowled out – which would give his bowlers less time to bowl out New Zealand.
The Kiwis had their chances to turn the screw, but some ordinary decision-making when using the DRS referral system, and some uncharacteristic lapses and dropped catches in the field, have ruined their chances of winning the match – even if there were to be a full day’s play on Sunday.
That might sound a bold statement, given that South Africa are just south of 200 runs ahead in the game, but for me there can only be two results left in this game: the draw being the favourite and a Proteas win being a distant second favourite.
Runs were hard to come by on day four, and South Africa put on 186 runs in 84 overs on the day – even if the weather permits, New Zealand won’t score much faster than that, plus they’ll have the pressure of batting last.
If there is enough play, then the key man on day five will be Keshav Maharaj.
The left-arm spinner grabbed career-best figures of 5-94 in the first innings – interesting to note though, that he went for 14 fours and a six in his 28 overs – and there is enough rough outside the off-stump of both the left-and-right handers for him to bowl an extended spell on Sunday and make life tough for the New Zealanders.
The obvious hope is that the damp conditions won’t have the final say, but whatever the case, it’s difficult to see South Africa losing this Test, with a draw being the bookies’ odds-on call, given the forecast.