|Rudolph defends during|
An extended first session which began with South Africa already well in front and facing a ball that was new enough to show no effects of bowlers and their bias shining. Chris Martin leaked fours but Doug Bracewell bowled an impeachable line. It was Trent Boult, replacing Bracewell who broke through when Kallis flicked a ball from his leg stump which should have sped to the boundary but instead was lofted straight to Rob Nicol at mid wicket. It was the softest of soft dismissals. AB deVilliers, probably South Africa's best batsman, couldn't have looked more comfortable in adding 70 with Jacques Rudolph before holing out at deep mid wicket after becoming impatient with patting back innocuous off breaks from Kane Williamson. The last seven overs until lunch were all caution from Boucher and Rudolph.
Rudolph cut loose after lunch, clearly under instruction to bat for a declaration. Boucher played his part too, the pair of them raining fours in sixteen overs which added 76 and allowed Graeme Smith to declare with a 400 run lead. Ruduloph batted superbly for his hundred, returning to something near his best and greatly aided by the pace being out of the wicket.
The New Zealand run chase began under leaden skies and the plan was clear from the start. Martin Guptil batted for half an hour for only 6 before edging Philander to de Villiers at second slip and New Zealand went to tea at 1-27. The new boy, Rob Nicol, batted for another ten overs after tea, eventually out after 90 minutes and 71 balls for just 19. He scooped a waist high full toss from leg spinner Imran Tahir back to mid on, where Smith held the easiest of catches. The crowd was much like the words of the Eric Bogle, "no body cheered, they just stood and stared and then they turn all their faces away." New Zealand were 2-55 and vulnerable.
|McCullum finished on 58x|
The last few minutes descended into comic farce, as Taylor constantly squinted up the pitch, opening and closing his eyes and squatting as if to pick up the sight of the ball. McCullum for his part, asked the umpires to have the lights turned off in the scorers box because they were so bright they were affecting his sighting of the ball! All of it theatre constructed to influence Aleem Dar and Billy Doctrove that it was time to leave: old tricks which were ultimately successful on this day but the overs lost will simply redeemed with an earlier start tomorrow.
The final day sees South Africa needing 8 wickets and New Zealand 264 runs. This is only the fourth Test played at this ground, so history here doesn't help us much. However, in the wider history of Test cricket (and this game is #2035), to win, New Zealand have to score the third highest fourth innings total of all time. In their 369th Test, the Kiwis have only ever past 300 twice in winning. They have, however, drawn 12 Tests chasing targets above 350 but have lost 64% of those matches.
The danger for them tomorrow is unlikely to come from the South Africans, as the pitch is docile and the weather forecast for cold, dull and wet. The total is just tantalising enough for them to risk winning. Winning is a habit and isn't the same as not losing. Its the latter that dominates Test cricket mentality in the Shaky Isles and it returned under Vettori's captaincy. Stephen Fleming, to his great credit, did his best to banish it from the Black Caps play.
All of which is mere hypothesis because rain will ruin the game anyhow.