The Proteas will resume day two on 123-4, after Hashim Amla’s 50 highlighted a rain-affected day one at Seddon Park.
With South Africa’s top order already back in the pavilion, New Zealand will be the happier of the two sides … marginally.
The talking point is New Zealand’s use of the Decision Referral System. It let them down in the second Test, but that was nothing compared with the number of ‘could’ve, should’ve, would’ve’ situations on Saturday.
JP Duminy would have been gone lbw for seven off Neil Wagner’s first ball if they’d taken it upstairs. Then they failed in their review against the same player, before wasting a second lbw review on Faf du Plessis after it hit the middle of his bat. Shortly after, the skipper edged one behind when he was on 16, which the umpire didn’t hear, with the Kiwis helpless to do anything about it.
That being said, on a pitch that’s yet to reveal its true colours, Matt Henry and Colin de Grandhomme took the umpire out of the equation with some excellent new-ball bowling, before claiming a wicket apiece in the middle overs to end the day with respective figures of 2-25 and 2-43. Neil Wagner was unlucky not to get more reward for his bowling too, which meant that the absence of both Trent Boult and Tim Southee for the first time in five years went largely unnoticed.
Du Plessis, winning the toss for the fourth time in a row and the ninth time in his 11 Tests as skipper, opted to bat first, which meant an early run on for debutant Theunis de Bruyn, who replaced the dropped Stephen Cook. The Knights captain will want to forget his first innings in Test whites however, needlessly playing at a Henry delivery to fall for a third-ball duck.
Dean Elgar (5), in contrast, should have played his delivery, for he left one that kept angling in, clipping the top of his off-stump to leave the Proteas on 5-2.
Hashim Amla and JP Duminy restored normality somewhat with a 59-run stand, but Duminy was let off the hook on a couple of occasions, and he eventually mistimed a short one for it to go straight to Jeetan Patel at fine-leg for 20.
Amla showed signs of his normal, flowing self with his unbeaten 38 in the second Test, and took that through to Hamilton with what was only his second score of fifty or more in 16 innings – something so desperately lacking from the Proteas’ most senior batsman. He departed for 50 on the dot, but it allowed the Proteas to settle.
There were a couple of close chances for the Black Caps to take wickets throughout this as Du Plessis was almost run out on one and Amla was dropped in the covers by Neil Broom when he was on 22, so the Proteas will want to take advantage of a Kiwi side who might be wondering how many more wickets they could have taken.
The rain meant only 41 overs of play. Du Plessis will continue on 33, Temba Bavuma 13, on Sunday on what is expected to be the heaviest day of rain. Expect more frustration, as the Proteas aim to close out the series in their hunt for the No 2 spot in the world.
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