SA ensure no way back for NZ

New Zealand will rarely experience Test match days like today where so little goes right for them, at least they will hope such days do not come along too frequently.

Jacques Kallis (186) and Hasim Amla (176*) continued where they left off yesterday and thundered home South Africa’s advantage with a partnership of 330, unsurprisingly it was the record third wicket partnership for South Africa against New Zealand. New Zealand’s attack became depleted when firstly Shane Bond was withdrawn from the field of play due to an abdominal injury which puts his inclusion in the second and final Test into doubt, and later in the day Jacob Oram joined him in the treatment room after he suffered a hamstring injury.

South African captain Graeme Smith decided to give the visitors some light, yet brief, relief, when he declared with his side on 422-3, an overall lead of 530.

Things were not getting any better for John Bracewell and his men, opener Michael Papps was unable to assume his position at the top of the order due to a stomach illness he had picked up. As a result Stephen Fleming, who spent no time in the field due to the injury to his right arm when he was caught by a Dale Steyn delivery, was forced to engage in a fierce battle against the new ball.

South Africa’s dominance was compounded when Fleming, Craig Cummins and Ross Taylor were all removed before the close of play, leaving New Zealand reeling on 57-3 still with two full days to play.

Batting conditions were near perfect for South Africa, the skies were clear blue and there was very little movement around for New Zealand either through the air or off the deck, and Bond and Chris Martin did well to restrict Kallis and Amla to very few scoring opportunities in the first hour.

There were few alarms for the home side throughout this mammoth partnership, and McCullum must still be rueing his dropped chance that Amla offered yesterday. He made his luck count however, and brought up his second Test century with a fine leg glance for four off Martin.

Kallis followed suit overs later and with typical elegance, picking up a delivery from Daniel Vettori and lofting him over mid wicket for a six, that was century number 28 for Kallis and his fourth in his last six innings. His stay at the crease should have brought to an end when on 108, he attempted to loft Vettori over the top, only to mistime and sky the ball, but sub fielder Michael Mason spilled what should have been a comfortable catch.

One criticism generally levelled at Kallis is his inability to dominate attacks, to continue in his own bubble with seemingly little awareness of what his team requires. It is, one has to say, rather harsh criticism, and today he he was aggressive and never let the Kiwi attack settle, flaying anything short in length without neglecting his sumptuous drives. He raced from 100 to 150 off only 51 balls, Amla was the first to reach his century yet was only on 108 when Kallis was taking the plaudits for his 150.

The elusive double century seemed inevitable, and there was perhaps no-one more surprised than Jacob Oram when he induced a feathered edge from Kallis through to Brendon McCullum. His 186 had come off 262 balls (a strike rate of 70.99) including 25 fours and three sixes.

Amla continued in partnership with Ashwell Prince, but they never seemed in any kind of hurry, and why would they with over two days cricket still to play. They had put on 72 off 28.2 overs when Smith called them in.

Hashim Amla had reached his highest Test score when he passed his previous best of 149 against New Zealand last year, and today he looked solid. His technique at times a little unorthodox but definitely an improvement from when he first arrived on the international stage. If the Kiwi bowlers did not know before, they will be only too aware now that you cannot afford to stray onto his pads or even onto middle stump as his ability to flick the ball either fine or through straight mid-wicket is of the highest quality.

New Zealand had 17 overs to see out, and Dale Steyn, visibly buoyed from his five wicket haul in the first innings, came charging in with good direction and excellent pace. He accounted for Cumming in the fifth over, edging to the safe hands of skipper Smith.

The new ball was aiding exaggerated variations in bounce with a number of cracks widening and making batting conditions much trickier, as the pitch continued to dry out.

When Smith brought Andre Nel, he could not have hoped for a better outcome, as the big South African removed Fleming and Ross Taylor in his first over, which was in truth a bit of a mixed bag.

Nel had gone wicketless in the first innings and was not to be denied here, first slanting one across Fleming who offered a slightly open faced defence and edged for Smith to take a fine catch down low to his left. A bit of extra bounce was too much for Taylor producing another edge, this time to Kallis, the man can do no wrong at the moment, who took a comfortable catch.

McCullum and Styris ensured no further damage was done, but New Zealand need something near a miracle to save this game. The pitch only seems to be getting worse and the visitors will do well to last till tea on day four.

South Africa 226
Herschelle Gibbs 63, Mark Boucher 43
Shane Bond 4-73

New Zealand 118
Stephen Fleming 40
Dale Steyn 5-34, Makhaya Ntini 3-47

South Africa 422-3 dec
Jacques Kallis 186, Hashim Amla 176*

New Zealand 57-3
Andre Nel 2-19

New Zealand trail by 473 runs

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