Day of inevitability

A match that started so well for New Zealand on the first two days has since been stripped of all trace of excitement and ended in a dull and lifeless draw on the most harmless of pitches at Newlands in Cape Town. The result means that South Africa cannot lose the series, something which must disappoint the New Zealanders after the heroics of day two. But the South Africans battled bravely in posting their total of 512, saving the match and drying up the visitors’ will to compete in a marathon 188-over innings.

However, there were a number of things to be taken out of today’s play by both sides. The South Africans managed to cheaply remove the shaky New Zealand opening partnership, while Scott Styris showed some long overdue signs of form and kept his place in the side firmly secure.

Resuming on 427-5, the day started off with some brief excitement as James Franklin took two wickets in a row, Mark Boucher and the injured Nicky Boje. His attempt at a second test hat-trick didn’t eventuate, but he soon dismissed Andre Nel and the innings looked like it would be wrapped up before lunch. But Ashwell Prince had other ideas and brought up his fourth test century in a superb eight-hour stay at the crease. He eventually did run out of partners however, as Dale Steyn fell to a stumping to give Daniel Vettori a well-deserved second wicket, the left-armer finishing the innings having bowled an amazing 62 overs, and Makhaya Ntini was run out soon after the lunch break to bring an end to the innings.

The New Zealand openers, who can’t have been overly keen on batting again seeing as they could only do themselves damage by getting out due to the lack of time with which to build a meaningful innings, came out and looked a bit shaky early on. Michael Papps and Peter Fulton both looked uncomfortable against Ntini, including one over in which Papps edged three balls, before Steyn provided the breakthrough in removing Papps thanks to a very good catch by centurion Prince.

Ntini continued to threaten and after an over of setting him up he caught the edge of Fulton’s bat and the catch was taken at slip, making the score 41-2.

Ntini and Steyn both bowled extremely well without much luck in the afternoon session, but the introduction of Andre Nel brought a reduction in the pressure that was building on the New Zealand batsmen. An obviously out of sorts Nel bowled erratically at greatly reduced pace and proved to be very expensive.

Nathan Astle looked promising for a while and built a partnership of reasonable size with Styris before falling soon after the tea break, hitting a ball straight up in the air off the bowling of Jacques Kallis to give him test wicket number 198.

Styris meanwhile continued to gain confidence and play more and more aggressive shots. Having looked a bit uncomfortable in recent innings, possibly due to a couple of knocks to the head in this series and the recent tests against the West Indies, it was some much neeeded batting time for the Auckland right-hander. He brought up his half-century from just 66 balls with nine fours, a promising sign of a return to form.

As we have become used to in the first four days of this test, the sun disappeared behind Table Mountain and darkness gradually fell on Newlands. This time both sides were keen to finally put an end to this dying test, and Smith brought Ntini into the attack which in turn led to the light being offered and gladly accepted by the batsmen.

The match ended in a draw, and one which could not be described as the most entertaining match ever witnessed. But there were some great performances, mostly New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming’s 262 on the first two days, and also maiden centuries for James Franklin and Hashim Amla, the latter being crucial in saving the match for the home side, and a memorable innings also from Ashwell Prince.

South Africa retain a 1-0 lead in the three test series, the third match of which begins in Johannesburg on Friday.

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

South Africa 512
Hashim Amla 149, Ashwell Prince 108*
James Franklin 3-95, Jeetan Patel 3-117

New Zealand 121-3
Scott Styris 54*, Nathan Astle 14

Match Drawn.

Cricket Web Player of the Match

Stephen Fleming – 262.

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