South Africa were 80-5 and trailed by 95 runs at stumps on day four of the series-deciding Test in Hamilton.
The Proteas should be praying that the weather in Hamilton has the final say in this game and series. Heavy rain is expected in and around Seddon Park on Wednesday, and so South Africa may yet escape with a draw that hands them a 1-0 series win.
However, New Zealand’s chances of winning this Test have increased a great deal following the Proteas’ top-order collapse late on day four. The hosts now require five wickets on day five to secure victory. The visitors will hope that rain reduces the number of overs in the day’s play.
If New Zealand fall short of their objective, they may look back and lament their circumspect approach over the course of the first session on day four. While Kane Williamson played well en route to 176 – the highest Test score by a local against South Africa in New Zealand – he and Mitchell Santner showed little urgency. The Kiwis scored just 86 runs during that two-and-a-half-hour session.
Colin de Grandhomme (57) ensured that New Zealand upped the ante in the period after lunch. The lower order scored at a rate of four runs per over, and De Grandhomme himself smashed five 4s and two 6s on the way to his maiden Test 50.
That late flurry ensured that the hosts finished their first innings with a significant lead of 175 runs. After tea, De Grandhomme claimed the key wicket of Dean Elgar, while Theunis de Bruyn was run-out after a horrific mid-pitch collision with Hashim Amla.
Amla failed to atone for his running sins. South Africa’s premier batsman flashed at an innocuous Jeetan Patel delivery and was caught behind.
Despite a couple of poor reviews, New Zealand were on top. South Africa looked to be in deep trouble at 49-3 and still some 18 overs away from the close of play.
JP Duminy did his side no favours when he shouldered arms to a Patel delivery four overs later. The New Zealanders celebrated loudly as Duminy’s bails were dislodged and yet another elite batsman began the long walk back to the change room.
Temba Bavuma’s lack of footwork proved his undoing. The Proteas No 6 edged Matt Henry to wicketkeeper BJ Watling to leave the visitors reeling at 59-5.
Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock managed to steer South Africa to the close. These two batsmen will be key for the Proteas on day five. If one should fall inside the first hour of play, the game could be New Zealand’s to lose.
Regardless of the result, the Proteas should be disappointed with their batting performances in this Test. For the most part, concentration has been lacking and shot selection has been unforgivably poor.
SA 314 (1st innings) – Quinton de Kock 90, Faf du Plessis 53, Matt Henry 4-93, Neil Wagner 3-104
NZ 489 (1st innings) – Kane Williamson 176, Jeet Raval 88, Kagiso Rabada 4-122, Morné Morkel 4-100
SA 80-5 (2nd innings) – Hashim Amla 19, Jeetan Patel 2-22, Colin de Grandhomme 1-15
South Africa trail by 95 runs
Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images