It was New Zealand’s day on the first day of the first Test match at Kingsmead, as a flurry of late wickets restricted the Proteas to 236-8.
A fifty from Hashim Amla left the Proteas fairly well-placed on 146-4 going into the final session, but most of the wickets were handed to New Zealand on a silver platter, as Pretoria-born Neil Wagner took three scalps.
Arguably the only wickets that weren’t given away were those of Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla. Just as partnerships started to get going, the Kiwis would strike, this after stand-in skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat.
It looked like a good toss to lose right from the start, as the unpredictable Kingsmead, hosting its first ever Test in August, offered plenty of swing to Trent Boult and a lot of movement off the surface to the likes of Wagner and Doug Bracewell.
Cook and Dean Elgar did well to navigate the new ball and it took a good delivery from Boult to shape it just enough to Cook (20) to find a feather of an edge to ‘keeper BJ Watling. A few overs later Elgar also edged one behind, this time to third slip for 19.
The second session followed a similar trend. A reasonably good partnership was followed by two quick wickets. JP Duminy (14), a surprise choice at No 4, mistimed one to fine leg for Wagner’s first wicket, before Amla, who had just racked up a fifty and 15 000 first-class runs, fell to one that cut in from Boult for 53.
Once again, Faf du Plessis and Temba Bavuma had to steady the ship and scored just 15 runs in 14 overs at one stage, but it was appropriate given the situation as they worked their way to a decent 64-run stand.
That’s when it started to get ugly for the hosts. Du Plessis fell to a superb one-handed grab in the gully from opposite number Kane Williamson to walk back for 23 off the bowling of former Affies schoolmate Wagner.
Quinton de Kock was looking in excellent touch and hit two aggressive boundaries off Mitchell Santner’s slow-left-arm. What happened after that was inexcusable, as he attempted a hattrick of boundaries, only to sky it for Bracewell to run in and take a good catch. Too much T20 cricket? Russell Domingo would probably say so.
Bavuma looked settled and played some magnificent cover drives. Just as he was edging towards 50, he became Santner’s second victim, trapped lbw for 46 to leave the hosts reeling on 208-7.
Vernon Philander, playing his first Test for almost a year, put on 20 runs with Kagiso Rabada, but he popped one straight to mid-off for eight. Rabada (14 not out) and Dale Steyn (two not out) stuck around until bad light had the final say 77.4 overs in.
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