Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis fought back to steer South Africa to 153-4 at tea on day one in Dunedin.
The Proteas are back in this contest thanks to the gritty and occasionally audacious batting of Elgar and Du Plessis. The pair occupied the crease for most of the second session and contributed a game-changing 126 runs.
New Zealand will know that they have let the South Africans off the hook. While the hosts did well to apply the pressure and take three big wickets in the first session, they failed to make their subsequent chances count.
Earlier today, the Proteas won the toss and elected to bat. Afterwards, Du Plessis admitted that the South Africans knew nothing about the new pitch at the University Oval.
The Proteas skipper explained his decision by pointing to New Zealand’s selection of two spinners. The visitors did not want to bat last on a wicket that was expected to take some turn.
While Jeetan Patel troubled the South African batsmen early on, it was the seamers who did the damage. Trent Boult accounted for Stephen Cook, while Neil Wagner dismissed Hashim Amla and JP Duminy in the space of five balls. At that point, the Proteas were reeling at 22-3.
Elgar and Du Plessis showed terrific composure to ensure that the Proteas went to lunch without losing further wickets. In the second over after the break, Elgar, then on 36, edged a Boult delivery down the leg side and was put down by wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
It proved a costly miss. Elgar and Du Plessis kept the scoreboard ticking over with some excellent running between the wickets, as well as the odd boundary. The New Zealanders began to feel the pressure in the field, and heads started to drop.
The pitch appeared to flatten out as the session progressed. While the batsmen had to work for their runs, the track offered less assistance than was the case in a dramatic opening session.
Du Plessis survived an lbw shout, but then offered up a chance in the deep on the stroke of tea. On this occasion, Boult held the catch.
New Zealand will need to try something different in the period after tea. If Elgar and Temba Bavuma occupy the crease for the bulk of the third session, they could well lay the platform for a total in excess of 350.
SA 153-4 (1st innings) – Dean Elgar 92 not out, Faf du Plessis 52, Neil Wagner 2-45
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