Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock fought back to ensure that South Africa ended day two in Wellington with a commanding 81-run lead.
There was a point before lunch when the visitors were 94-6 and on the brink of collapse. Thanks to the 160-run partnership between Bavuma and De Kock, as well as the late innings heroics of the tailenders, the visitors have finished day two with their noses in front.
Conditions were ideal for batting at the Basin Reserve on day two. It’s for this reason that the Proteas’ poor return in the morning session – 80 runs for the loss of four wickets – came as a surprise.
The Proteas were guilty of poor shot selection during that period. Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, and Faf du Plessis conspired to throw their respective wickets away.
A big partnership was required, as well as a more measured approach. Bavuma and De Kock took some time to settle, and then went after the New Zealand bowlers in the second session.
De Kock was particularly aggressive against the spinner Jeetan Patel. The pair occupied the crease for the duration of the second session, scoring 114 runs at a rate of better than four runs per over.
De Kock continued to attack after tea, and ultimately this approach cost him a well-deserved ton. Bavuma ensured that the South Africa went past New Zealand’s total of 268, and then also perished via a rash stroke.
In a sense, both may feel disappointed that they didn’t crack on and ensure that the Proteas finished the day with a greater lead. On the other hand, it was a positive approach that allowed them to dominate the New Zealand bowling in the second session and bring South Africa back into the contest. That seventh-wicket stand of 160 may well be remembered as a major turning point in the game.
Going forward, the Proteas will need to rethink the make-up of their top order. While Dean Elgar and Du Plessis have been South Africa’s most consistent batsmen over the course of the 2016-17 season, Stephen Cook, Amla, and Duminy have battled to contribute many innings of substance.
Bavuma and De Kock proved a point at the Basin Reserve, as did Vernon Philander (36 not out) and Morné Morkel (31 not out). The latter pair put on 47 for the 10th wicket and ensured that South Africa extended their lead well beyond 50.
The momentum will be with the Proteas when play commences on day three. The way Philander and Morkel are batting, the visitors may well finish the innings with a lead of 100-plus.
NZ 268 (1st innings) – Henry Nicholls 118, BJ Watling 34, JP Duminy 4-47, Keshav Maharaj 2-47
SA 349-9 (1st innings) – Quinton de Kock 91, Temba Bavuma 89, Colin de Grandhomme 3-52, Neil Wagner 3-96
South Africa lead by 81 runs
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