TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park
FOR almost five hours here on Monday, two New Zealanders seemed in control of the third test against South Africa.
The Kiwis in command were Jeet Raval and Kane Williamson, whose partnership endured from the sixth over of a day’s play that began at noon because a wet outfield until more than an hour after tea.
The stand realised 190 runs, a New Zealand record for the second wicket in tests against South Africa, and yielded Williamson’s 17th century – which put him level with Martin Crowe as his country’s leading exponent of three-figure excellence.
Together Raval and Williamson set about reeling in South Africa’s first innings of 314; not with panache but with plenty of patience.
By stumps on the third day South Africa had fought back to reduce the home side to 321/4.
The second new ball did the trick, claiming 3/80. But it wouldn’t have without the efforts of an attack that threw themselves into the fray with renewed vigour.
That was noticeably true of Kagiso Rabada, who went wicketless for 59 in the 14 overs he bowled with the first ball and took 2/24 in seven overs with the second.
The contest, then, is poised and will remain so as long as it continues to dodge significant interference from rain that seemed to swirl all around the ground on Monday.
New Zealand resumed on 67 without loss, and Tom Latham whittled away successfully at the the eight more runs he needed to reach his 13th half-century.
Seven balls later he was caught behind by Quinton de Kock’s one-handed dive to his left after pushing unconvincingly at an angled delivery from Morne Morkel.
Another Morkel delivery and another De Kock one-handed dive, this time to his right to snag an inside edge, removed Raval for 88, his highest score and the product of more than six-and-a-half hours of mostly solid batting.
Three overs later Neil Broom shouldered arms and was trapped in front by Rabada, who had Henry Nicholls caught behind off the glove with his next ball.
Williamson stood as tall as his 1.73 metres would allow him to through all that, and will battle on on Tuesday on 148 not out.
So far he has batted for more than five-and-a-half hours, faced 216 balls and hit 14 fours and three sixes, and with his trademark understatement.
New Zealand’s captain epitomises the martial art of speaking quietly while carrying a big stick, and South Africa know his wicket could be the knockout blow they need.