The Proteas survived a dramatic final session at the University of Otago Oval to finish day three with a five-run lead.
It’s not every day that play is halted due to an abundance of heat. Yet that appeared to be the case when players, spectators, and even journalists were asked to evacuate the ground halfway through the third session on day three.
South Africa may have welcomed the disruption. They had battled to contain the likes of Neil Wagner and Ross Taylor at the start of the third session. The hosts finished their first innings with a 33-run lead, and went into the next phase of the contest with their tails up.
Trent Boult removed Stephen Cook with the fourth ball of the South African innings. Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla were battling along when an alarm started to wail in the grandstand and play was called to a halt.
Play resumed for an hour or so before umpires started to worry about the light. When the players left the field for good, both teams appeared content with the day’s work.
New Zealand posted 341 in response to South Africa’s first innings total of 308. Kane Williamson (130) grafted hard to record his 16th Test century. BJ Watling (50) and Wagner (32) also played their part to propel the Kiwis into a strong position.
The efforts of the South African bowlers during the first two sessions – and of one bowler in particular – should not go unacknowledged. The Proteas did well to contain the Kiwis initially. The pitch did not offer a great deal of assistance to the bowlers, and so the visitors were made to toil for their wickets.
Keshav Maharaj finished the innings with career best Test figures of 5-94. The left-arm spinner made a couple of crucial breakthroughs over the course of the day. A quicker delivery accounted for Watling, who looked set at that stage, while Maharaj got the better of the hard-hitting Wagner in the end.
However, Maharaj’s performance did little to check the Kiwis’ hard-earned confidence. Boult fired in the first over of the South African innings. Replays confirmed that the ball had hit Cook’s pad rather than his bat before settling in Watling’s gloves. The South African batsman didn’t bother to call for a review, though.
Only 20 minutes were lost due to the fire alarm fiasco. Elgar and Amla took a further eight overs to negate New Zealand’s 33-run lead.
The game is still in the balance. If New Zealand take two or three wickets in the morning session on day four, the Proteas could be in trouble. There is also the weather to consider, as rain is forecast for day five.
SA 308 (1st innings) – Dean Elgar 140, Temba Bavuma 64, Trent Boult 4-64, Neil Wagner 3-88
NZ 341 (1st innings) – Kane Williamson 130, Jeet Raval 52, BJ Watling 50, Keshav Maharaj 5-94
SA 38-1 (2nd innings) – Hashim Amla 23 not out, Dean Elgar 12 not out, Trent Boult 1-6
South Africa lead by 5 runs
Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images