TELFORD VICE at Seddon Park
KANE Williamson was woken by a thief in the night in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. He saw nothing, but he knew what he was dealing with.
“I heard it at about 4am,” Williamson said. “I was sort of hoping that it might stop or it might come a little early and fine up.”
What New Zealand’s captain heard was rain, come to steal his team’s thunder – a levelled test series against South Africa.
It kept falling throughout the morning and into the afternoon, and at 1.20pm Bruce Oxenford and Rod Tucker walked to the middle of Seddon Park in one last scene of made-for-TV umpiring and declared the last day of the third test, well, dead in the water.
That suited Russell Domingo just fine.
“Today the weather was great,” Domingo said.
South Africa would have resumed their second innings on 80/5, needing another 95 to make New Zealand bat again.
Things would have been just fine while the overnight pair, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock, were at the crease.
But would the rest of the order have been able to sustain the pressure put on them by an attack that had punched above their depleted weight on a pitch that was starting to offer sharp turn?
Because of the rain, we’ll never know.
Instead, we know that South Africa came away with a 1-0 series win by way of their emphatic eight-wicket victory in three days in the second test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.
“Obviously it’s very frustrating coming into the last day with a lot to play for,” Williamson said.
“We have to look at this as a really positive game that was one of our best test performances of the home summer.
“It was just unfortunate not to get the last day and push for a result against one of the best test teams in world cricket.”
Du Plessis didn’t disagree.
“Everyone would say New Zealand can count themselves very unlucky,” South Africa’s captain said.
“The rain has come at a terrible time for them.
“(On Tuesday) night, after the day’s play, there was a lot of belief in our team that we’ve been in situations like this before and we have overcome them.
“From a team perspective we were still very driven to make sure we do whatever it takes to get through.
“But, realistically, New Zealand can count themselves very unlucky.
“They dominated this match and deserved to have a crack at us today.
“It’s a fair assessment to say we’ve been saved by the rain.”
That didn’t mean Du Plessis – who batted for almost eight hours to save the Adelaide test on debut in November 2012 – had given up hope.
“It’s important that you find a way to do it whatever your style of play is,” he said. “I was extremely motivated yesterday.
“When I went out to bat, I remember saying to JP (Duminy) I’m going to block for two days here.”
The match ended a test season in which South Africa won all four their series.
Aside from the rubber in New Zealand, they beat the Kiwis 1-0 in South Africa in August, prevailed 2-1 in Australia in November, and hammered Sri Lanka 3-0 in January.
South Africa won seven of those 11 tests, drew three and lost only one to rise from No. 7 to No. 2 in the rankings.
“To turn it around like we did has been extraordinary,” Du Plessis said.
“In different series someone has put their hand up.
“I don’t think there has been one guy that been exceptional all year.
“But when the team needed us most, there someone was always there.
“That’s what you need to be to be a good team.
“We didn’t play great cricket but we still won.”
South Africa’s next engagement is in England, starting in May with three one-day internationals followed in June by the Champions Trophy.
They will stay in England to play three T20s and four tests before they return home in August.