TELFORD VICE in Hamilton
STEPHEN Cook’s axing for the third test between New Zealand and South Africa at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Saturday would have surprised many, and not least Theunis de Bruyn.
Having opened the batting in 16 of his 63 first-class innings and not since March 2015, debutant De Bruyn was sent out with Dean Elgar to get South Africa underway after Faf du Plessis won the toss.
Minutes later De Bruyn was back in the dressingroom, caught at second slip for a duck off Matt Henry to the third ball he faced.
Rain and a wet outfield truncated the day’s play to 41 overs, in which South Africa reached 123/4.
In 19 innings since he made his debut against England in Centurion in January 2016, Cook has scored three centuries and two half-centuries.
But he has mustered a meagre 17 runs in four innings in this series.
“It’s tough for anybody to be left out of any test team,” Hashim Amla, who scored 50, said.
“You want to keep playing. You always believe, as a batsman, that if you keep doing the hard work and sticking to your processes the best that you can, that runs will come your way at some stage or the other.
“Playing is the only way for the runs to come.”
Another plan would have been to promote Quinton de Kock to the top with De Bruyn slotting into the middle order.
But that would have meant tinkering with a recipe that has been effective for South Africa.
“‘Quinnie’ opening the batting is an option, but I think the way he’s conducted himself at No. 7 he’s changed many games for us and that’s his position to keep.”
De Kock has scored all three of his test centuries batting at No. 7.
The New Zealanders had another off day with the decision review system.
Having failed to refer Neil Wagner’s leg-before appeal for JP Duminy’s wicket – which replays showed would have been out – they then blew both their referrals.
The debate over Matt Henry’s lbw shout for Duminy’s wicket ended when the ball was shown to have pitched outside leg, and Du Plessis was clearly seen to have middled the ball when another Wagner appeal was sent upstairs.
In Wagner’s next over, with the home side all out of referrals, Du Plessis survived an appeal for caught behind.
The evidence suggested a faint edge.
New Zealand suffered similar frustrations with electronic umpiring during the first test at University Oval in Dunedin.
“Obviously we didn’t get them all right today, but that’s the way it goes with the DRS,” Henry said.
Amla had empathy for the Kiwis: “There’s a lot of guesswork involved; you’re taking the opinions of a lot of people.
“The onus ends up being on the captain because he’s the only one who can refer it.
“He can only take information from the people around him; sometimes you get it right and most of the time you get it wrong.
“It’s a very difficult science.”
More rain has been forecast for all four days of the match.
The first test was drawn and South Africa won the second, at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, by eight wickets.