SA A dominate opening day

After his team’s opening tour match New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori expressed his wish for a less seam-friendly pitch in the game against South Africa A at Potchefstroom. His wish was granted, and his bowlers toiled through 90 overs on the first day as Neil McKenzie caressed his way to an unbeaten 156, and Boeta Dippenaar fell to the same curse as afflicted Vettori in the game against the Invitation XI when he was dismissed for 99 following a stand of 224 with McKenzie.

The massive third-wicket partnership was built following a brisk opening from Alviro Petersen and Gulam Bodi, who put-on 39 in the first 10 overs. Shane Bond, reasonably impressive with new-ball in hand, broke the stand as Bodi was caught by Scott Styris. Petersen followed in the 14th when Iain O’Brien, playing his first match for a New Zealand-representative side since he appeared against Sri Lanka A in October 2005, had him caught by Michael Papps, keeping wicket instead of Brendon McCullum in what can only be called a puzzling move given Papps’ desperate need for time at the batting crease in this game.

However, for most of the rest of the day the Kiwi fielders were chasing leather. McKenzie and Dippenaar, as is the wont of both batsmen, took their time initially, and Jacob Oram once again maintained an immaculate line, giving nothing away. O’Brien did not disgrace himself on his return to the side and conceded only just over 3-an-over, but Bond’s return later in the day proved highly costly, and Chris Martin was woefully ineffective, conceding well over 5-an-over. Vettori bowled 20 overs, more than anyone else, but could not break through either, and nor could Scott Styris in his 3 overs.

Neither McKenzie nor Dippenaar have ever managed to convince in their stop-start Test careers, and at 32 and 30 respectively time is running short for both to earn themselves further opportunities. They did all that could have been asked of them in this game, however, barring an extra single that Dippenaar would have loved. Oram, spot on in his second spell as his first, dismissed him via a second catch to Styris. Bond took his second wicket as the close neared, Jean-Paul Duminy failing to get more than a run-a-ball 12 before giving McCullum a catch in the outfield. Morne van Wyk is poised ominously on 18*, however, and McKenzie will hope to complete a double-century which would put huge pressure on the likes of Hashim Amla and perhaps even AB de Villiers and Herschelle Gibbs.

The Kiwi bowlers, meanwhile, will hope they can run through a very long tail and give their own batsmen maximum chance to cash-in on the benign surface. Unfortunately, former captain Stephen Fleming will not be amongst them, having been ruled-out of the game with a dislocated thumb. His place was taken by Lou Vincent.

South Africa A 350 for 4
Neil McKenzie 156*, Boeta Dippenaar 99

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