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Two days to survive
29 Apr 2006
By: Richard Edmunds


South Africa have begun well in their search for a draw to keep their series lead intact after New Zealand's first innings finally came to an end on the third morning of the second test at Newlands. Although a victory is as close to impossible as anything can be in cricket, a draw is looking more and more likely as stubborn, determined batting by the home side and play disruptions due to the conditions thwart New Zealand's hopes of keeping the series alive.

Resuming with the team score on 535-8 and himself just seven runs short of a century, there was little else on James Franklin's mind as he walked out to bat with debutant Jeetan Patel. A quiet opening half hour followed, in which Patel ably did the job of feeding the strike to his Wellington team-mate, but Franklin was able only to hit the ball powerfully into the hands of waiting fielders. He scored just two runs in the first half hour, but when on 96 he finally got one into the gap, a powerful straight drive just reaching the boundary to give him his maiden test century. This was the fourteenth time a number nine batsman has scored a century in tests, and the fourth time by a New Zealander.

The milestone brought a noticeable change in tactics. Two of the next three balls went to the boundary as Franklin released the brakes. Patel was hardly a spectator at the other end, finishing on 27 from just 31 balls with three boundaries of his own. Franklin rapidly moved through to 122 at the drinks break, at which time Stephen Fleming decided to declare the innings closed with the score at a formidable 593-8.

Needing 393 just to avoid the follow-on, the South Africans started well against Chris Martin and a visibly tired Franklin on a pitch that could not be described as one favourable to pace bowlers, something the South Africans knew all too well from the last two days. But the introduction of Daniel Vettori and then Patel brought a change in momentum, and with the score at 36 the debutant took a wicket in his first over of test cricket. South African captain Graeme Smith hit the ball straight back to the bowler and although Smith stood his ground and the decision went to the third umpire despite the ball clearly having bounced before hitting the bat and not after, Patel had his first wicket and New Zealand a crucial breakthrough.

Boeta Dippenaar and the inexperienced Hashim Amla battled through a difficult period against some excellent spin bowling, with Patel outbowling his more experienced and successful team-mate. The partnership moved through to 72 and Dippenaar to 47 before Patel struck again, probably his worst ball of the day being dragged onto the stumps to end Dippenaar's innings just three short of a half-century.

Amla didn't suffer the same fate though, moving through to his fifty and in doing so almost doubling his career test run tally to date. It was not a rapid innings, but with a draw being South Africa's goal from here it was exactly what the home team needed. Playing the same role at the other end was Jacques Kallis, who crept slowly but steadily towards the 60 he needed to reach 8000 test runs.

The sun, having surprisingly shone throughout the majority of the first two sessions of the day, went behind the clouds after the tea break and the umpires offered the light to the batsmen. Unsurprisingly and after very little contemplation they accepted and went off the field for what proved to be the last time on the third day.

South Africa have begun their response to New Zealand's massive first innings in impressive fashion, and New Zealand still need to capture 18 wickets in the last two days of the match. With none of the first three days being played to its full length, a draw is beginning to look increasingly likely.

New Zealand 593-8 dec.
Stephen Fleming 262, James Franklin 122*
Makhaya Ntini 4-162

South Africa 155-2
Hashim Amla 50*, Boeta Dippenaar 47
Jeetan Patel 2-58

South Africa trail by 438 runs.

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