Kane Williamson’s 148 took New Zealand to 321-4 by stumps on day three, but three late wickets have brought the Proteas back.
It was a day that, against the odds, saw an almost full day of play at Seddon Park. There were 78 overs bowled, and most of them belonged to New Zealand … Kane Williamson to be more exact, as his side edged towards a seven-run lead.
The Black Caps skipper broke a record, and then tied one, as he strolled to an unbeaten 148 to make it New Zealand’s day, and give them the edge in this Test match. When he got to 60, he became the quickest New Zealander to reach 5 000 Test runs, joining Australian legend Ricky Ponting on 110 innings. When he reached his century, he joined the late Martin Crowe in making it 17.
Jeet Raval had a chance to become the first New Zealand opener to reach a Test century against South Africa since 1953, but he started to look uncomfortable as his innings wore on, and when he departed for 88, it sparked a collapse that could have been worse.
New Zealand began the final session on 209-1, with South Africa’s only breakthrough in the day coming in the morning session, when Morne Morkel forced the edge of Tom Latham’s bat for Morkel’s 250th Test wicket, becoming the sixth South African to achieve the feat. Latham’s 50 was an important return to form for the opener, and it took the pressure off Williamson to go in and play with freedom.
They pushed on in the final session, but Raval found it particularly hard going. The pair put on 64, but only 15 of them came from Raval, as the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Morkel bowled with the venom and purpose that had been lacking throughout the day. It would be Morkel to take his second and end the 190-run stand, as he got one to angle in, which caught the inside edge of Raval’s bat. Quinton de Kock took another fine low catch to see him off for an excellent 88.
Neil Broom, who had a debut to forget in Wellington last week with 0 and 20, fell cheaply yet again. He misjudged a Rabada delivery that moved in and crashed on to his back pad without offering a shot. New Zealand haven’t been too effective with their use of the DRS in this series, but after a quick chat with Williamson, they avoided the mistake of reviewing what would have been smashing middle stump.
Rabada was soon on a hat-trick as Henry Nicholls gloved one behind on the first ball of his next over to walk for a duck, and suddenly the Proteas were right back in it. They almost had a fifth wicket three overs later as Vernon Philander bowled Mitchell Santner for four, only for the umpire to signal a no-ball.
Williamson was infallible on day three, proving once again why is he is one of the very best batsmen in the world. It’s not just the amount of runs he has scored, but the pace at which he has scored them, as his 14 fours and three sixes kept him at a strike rate hovering around the 70 mark. Together with Mitchell Santner (13), Williamson will look to press home the advantage on day four, with one eye on a double century.
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