Kane Williamson and Jeet Raval struck half-centuries to boost New Zealand to 177-3 at stumps on day two in Dunedin.
New Zealand have played themselves back into this game with a superior bowling and batting performance on day two. As it stands, the hosts trail the Proteas by 131 runs, with seven first-innings wickets in hand.
That said, South Africa are still in the contest. A dramatic final session saw Hashim Amla taking a sharp catch to dismiss Henry Nicholls, and Ross Taylor crying off with injury. Those incidents will ensure that the visitors take some confidence into a crucial stage of this Test match.
The pitch at the University of Otago Oval flattened out significantly on day two. The Proteas failed to take advantage, though, losing their remaining six wickets for 79 runs. The visitors’ innings ended in the fifth over after lunch, as did their chances of batting New Zealand out of the game.
Dean Elgar posted his highest Test score (140), while Temba Bavuma (64) scored his first half-century since November 2016. Unfortunately for the Proteas, neither batsmen cracked on to steer South Africa to a total of 400-plus.
Vernon Philander removed Tom Latham in the sixth over of the hosts’ innings with a wide delivery outside off-stump. From there, the Proteas bowlers battled to hit a length with any great consistency and were rarely assisted by the pitch.
Raval and Williamson took their time to build a platform for New Zealand. They waited for the bad deliveries, and were clinical in dispatching full and wide balls to the fence.
The pair put on 102 runs, a record second-wicket stand for New Zealand against South Africa. The runs began to flow in the period after tea as both Raval and Williamson started to grow in confidence. At one point, the New Zealand skipper smashed Kagiso Rabada for three fours in a single over.
It was overconfidence that brought an end to a potentially game-changing partnership. Raval chipped Keshav Maharaj to midwicket, and suddenly the Proteas had something to cheer about. Faf du Plessis called his charges in after that dismissal to ask – presumably – for an energetic finish in the crucial final hour of play.
Morné Morkel – playing in his first Test in over a year – bowled quickly and aggressively and struck Taylor on the helmet late in the third session. The vastly experienced batsman was forced to retire hurt with what was later confirmed as a calf injury.
Amla took a brilliant catch at first slip off the bowling of Maharaj to dismiss Nicholls. That wicket will ensure that the Proteas take some confidence into day three. They will also be boosted by the knowledge that Taylor is unlikely to return after sustaining that injury.
Williamson will aim to chip away at the deficit early on day three and strengthen New Zealand’s position. South Africa, by contrast, will have to prevent the New Zealand skipper from settling in the first session.
SA 308 (1st innings) – Dean Elgar 140, Temba Bavuma 64, Trent Boult 4-64, Neil Wagner 3-88
NZ 177-3 (1st innings) – Kane Williamson 78 not out, Jeet Raval 52, Keshav Maharaj 2-57
Vernon Philander 1-37
New Zealand trail by 131 runs
Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images