Du Plessis, seamers put SA on top
New Zealand 38 for 3 (Philander 1-10, Steyn 1-18) trail South Africa 481 for 8 dec (du Plessis 112*, Duminy 88,
Wagner 5-86) by 444 runs FAF du Plessis scored his first century in 17 innings since December 2014 and South Africa’s seamers picked from where they left off in Durban to give the hosts control of the series decider. Du Plessis was one of a quintet of batsmen to cross 50 — only the second time all of South Africa’s top five have done so — as they wore New Zealand out before declaring on a day of toil for the visitors.
The current New Zealand crop have never been kept in the field for more overs than the 154 they were during South Africa’s innings. As a team, they have spent more time on the park eight times before in the first innings, most recently in 1999. The consolation for them was that Neil Wagner claimed his fourth five-wicket haul on his first Test appearance at his former home ground while the rest of the attack went largely luckless. Trent Boult will be particularly envious of the returns the other seamers enjoyed after he went wicketless despite creating numerous chances, beating the bat, finding movement and several edges.
Instead, it was South Africa who reaped reward, as they plucked out New Zealand’s openers early. This time Vernon Philander was in on the action too. He created the first chance when he squared Martin Guptill up with a delivery that straightened from leg stump and took the edge but went over the slips where Stiaan van Zyl was reaching for it. Van Zyl only had to wait until Philander’s next over to make amends. Guptill was fishing outside off again and van Zyl took the catch off the edge.
At the other end, Dale Steyn was trying to force the batsmen to drive, and got one to nip back into Tom Latham and appealed for caught behind. Umpire Paul Reiffel gave it not out but Steyn was insistent and South Africa reviewed. Replays suggested the ball had brushed the pocket but a thin spike on Ultra Edge convinced the third umpire Richard Illingworth Latham was out off the inside edge. The decision fired Steyn up even more. He greeted Ross Taylor with a 140kph bouncer that struck him on the shoulder and another, even faster, at 145kph, on the arm. Taylor weathered the storm but the the pressure got to him. As the first change was made — Kagiso Rabada took over from Philander — he nudged into the leg side set off a single. Temba Bavuma swooped to his left from short leg and his direct hit found Taylor short of his ground and dismissed for the first time on New Zealand’s African tour.
Kane Williamson batted to the close but the “oh no,” he uttered when he squandered a review earlier in the day — agreeing to go upstairs when Wagner thought he had Philander out lbw — could have applied to the whole day for New Zealand.
They started strongly when Boult continued his blistering new-ball spell and threatened a wicket in almost every over. He could have had one off the first ball of the morning, which nipped back into du Plessis and almost took out off stump. Later he drew an inside-edge, rapped du Plessis on the pads and had him pulling to deep square leg where Henry Nicholls let it slip through his grasp.
Fortune was with South Africa as JP Duminy survived too. He could have been caught in the slips but the edge fell short and he was regularly beaten but he fought his way into form. Duminy seemed destined for a first Test hundred in two years but then got a bottom edge off a rash pull to finish 12 short.
Wagner used a signature short ball to remove Temba Bavuma, the only batsmen not to get into double figures, but South Africa’s long line-up meant New Zealand were not through. Stiaan van Zyl — now batting in the middle order after an unsuccessful stint at the top — joined du Plessis in circumspection and batted most of the second session while du Plessis patiently played for a century.
His strike rate only climbed when he moved from 60 to 80 in 15 deliveries. For the rest of his innings, du Plessis was willing to wait and it was only after van Zyl and Philander were dismissed that he got there. In two emotional overs, Wagner celebrated a five-for in front of friends and family from his hometown and du Plessis was vindicated after being dropped in the last Test series and brought back as stand-in captain for this one. Personal performance aside, du Plessis doubtless ended the day the happier man. — Cricinfo
Faf du Plessis’ fifth Test hundred helped South Africa declare on 481 for 8 before their bowlers reduced New Zealand to 38 for 3 on day two in Centurion AFP