TELFORD VICE at the Basin Reserve
Wellington – South Africa didn’t look like surging to a stunning victory in the second test against New Zealand when play resumed on a chilly, windblown Saturday morning.
It was only the third day, and the visitors were 349/9 in their first innings in reply to New Zealand’s 268.
But, when JP Duminy put Jimmy Neesham through midwicket for four in fading sunshine at 6.56pm, South Africa had won by eight wickets.
They did so because Keshav Maharaj had delivered the best performance by a South African spinner since 2003.
Left-arm spinner Maharaj took 6/40 to condemn New Zealand to a second innings total of 171, leaving South Africa a nominal target of 81.
Not since left-arm wrist spinner Paul Adams took 7/128 against Pakistan in Lahore in October 2003 has a South African slow bowler claimed more wickets in a test innings.
Left-arm spinner Paul Harris’ 6/127 against Australia at Newlands in March 2009 marked the last time a South African dispenser of slow poison claimed a half-dozen scalps in a test innings.
That made Maharaj the first Saffer spinner to take six in 66 tests.
South Africa were dismissed three overs into the day’s play with a lead of 91.
The home side’s problems started in the fifth over of their second innings, when Morne Morkel had Tom Latham caught by Duminy in the gully with only 16 runs on the board.
Morkel struck twice more, removing key batsman Kane Williamson and debutant Neil Broom with catches by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock to reduce New Zealand to 64/3.
Maharaj claimed his first victim when first-innings centurion Henry Nicholls tried to sweep a wide del;ivery and dragged it onto his stumps and was bowled for seven.
The Kiwis crashed to 90/5 when Maharaj had Neesham superbly caught by a leaping Faf du Plessis at midwicket.
All the while opener Jeet Raval stood firm, surviving dropped catches off Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada on 53 and 76 and a missed stumping off Duminy on 67.
But, having put on 65 for the sixth wicket with BJ Watling, he came down the pitch to Maharaj, missed with a drive, and was stumped for 80 – his highest test score.
That was the start of an avalanche of five wickets for 16 runs to end the innings, four of them claimed by Maharaj.
The pick of his haul was a delivery to Colin de Grandhomme, who failed to get forward to what proved to be a wickedly turning ball that nailed the top of off-stump.
South Africa lost openers Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar with 48 runs scored, but Hashim Amla and Duminy ensured there were no dramas with an unbroken stand of 35.
Amla hit five fours in his 38 not out, while Duminy was unbeaten on 15.