Amla and Kallis strike again

Yet another day on which South Africa totally dominated New Zealand was ended prematurely, as had its predecessor been, by intervention from bad light. The hosts’ comfort with the tourists’ bowling-attack meant 10 overs more were played than the previous day, with help from floodlights, but 55 overs have now been lopped from the opening two days’ play.

The South Africans’ progress means they still have a fine chance of winning the game even in spite of this, however: after taking the final wicket in the day’s opening over, Makhaya Ntini helping himself to an edge from Chris Martin’s bat to Kallis at second-slip, they lost their openers quickly, but a massive stand from Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, who played contrasting innings, built a total of 272 for 3, a lead of 84.

Graeme Smith fell as he had in the first-innings at The Wanderers, dragging an innocuous delivery from Martin back onto his stumps. Herschelle Gibbs creamed a 27-ball 25 before he too fell to Martin in a way that has plagued him throughout his career: a full, inswinging delivery slid between bat and pad and crashed into the stumps. Fortunately for South Africa, Amla and Kallis repeated their rescue-act of the Wanderers second-innings.

Both players started quietly, 20 coming between the 9th and 19th overs as Martin, Iain O’Brien and Mark Gillespie, on Test debut, maintained a consistent full length and found some movement in both directions. In the 19th, Kallis flung his bat at a slow, wide, full delivery from Gillespie and just managed to avert giving a chance to Ross Taylor at gully, who could get no more than a fingertip on it. O’Brien’s following over cost 10, with boundaries coming from edge and middle of Kallis’ bat. When runs continued to flow, Daniel Vettori brought himself on. His 2nd delivery was a slow long-hop which Kallis smashed meatily onto the embankment; the bowler did not help his own cause by overstepping later in the over. Amla, who had picked his way carefully to 13 off 50 balls, finally opened-up, driving Gillespie beautifully down the ground twice in the 25th. Vettori was unable to drag his length back and allowed both batsmen to play far too easily off the back-foot.

The upshot was that South Africa went to lunch 103 for 2. During the break, the Kiwi think-tank had clearly removed their thinking-caps, as the strategy for most of the afternoon session involved banging the ball in roughly halfway down the pitch. Kallis could seemingly barely contain his delight, and swayed easily out of the way of the greater majority of deliveries, but found more than enough which he was able to hammer over mid-wicket, through point and uppishly cut over the slips. Despite an almost exactly equal share of the strike, Amla did not match his partner’s ferocity, but was more than content to play at the pace usually stereotyped for Kallis himself.

This time, Kallis invited awe: on the rare occasion the bowlers pitched it up he was often found driving classically through extra-cover; and he rarely lost control of his many shots to the short deliveries, excluding one top-edge off Gillespie that had more than enough power to carry for his 2nd six. Vettori, after his indifferent start, was never allowed to settle, and Kallis walked down the pitch to drive him straight more than once. The weather became increasingly ominous as the session wore on, but the Kiwis refused to observe the omens that quite clearly told them to pitch the ball up.

Kallis completed his 29th Test century (equalling Don Bradman’s tally) from just 143 deliveries, with consecutive cover-drives off Scott Styris. In the murk he celebrated with gusto, and promptly sped-up further still, those boundaries beginning a streak of 37 from 31. South Africa took tea on 251 for 2.

Kallis lasted just 5 balls after the break, as Gillespie finally bowled an over worthy of a Test bowler, finding both edges of the bat before finally thudding a ball that swung back considerably into the pads and giving Mark Benson an easy decision. Kallis’ 131, however, had been a brilliant innings. Just 6 more overs were bowled, however, as the light deteriorated more and more, and the batsmen eventually accepted it. Gillespie had pulled-up with a tight hamstring in that time, but appears likely to be able to bowl tomorrow. Having already lost James Franklin, Shane Bond and Jacob Oram, this would have been a blow New Zealand could have ill-afforded. They have a massive fight in order to stay in the game anyway.

New Zealand 188
Dale Steyn 4-42

South Africa 272 for 3
Hashim Amla 89*, Jacques Kallis 131

South Africa lead by 84 runs with 7 first-innings wickets remaining

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