Cape Town – Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma were main architects of the brilliant fightback, but last man Morne Morkel might be said to have cheekily nipped in to place the cherry on top as South Africa suddenly seized a tidy grip on the second Test against New Zealand.
Friday’s compelling day two of the second encounter in Wellington saw the Proteas reduced to pronounced peril in the first session.
They went to lunch extremely uncomfortably at 104 for six in their first innings, still 162 runs shy of the Black Caps’ total -- and with danger signs flashing in terms of how the situation might impact on the eventual outcome of the tight, tense series.
It was a reminder that structural concerns are mounting around the collective SA batting unit … but then the next two sessions also dished up a powerful statement that general spirit and trench-fighting qualities run deep in Faf du Plessis’s Test team.
By the close, the tourists had not only stopped staring down an ominous barrel; they’d turned the gun around to point it instead at their possibly unsuspecting rivals.
The Proteas were an immeasurably more healthy 349 for nine at stumps, a swing of just about 360 degrees in fortunes as they opened up an 81-run lead for themselves.
The donkeywork in effecting that turnaround was overwhelmingly done by Quinton de Kock, more than banishing his “Jeetan Patel jitters” en route to a typically dashing 91, and Temba Bavuma (89), who played perhaps his most important and mentally sturdy knock for the country yet.
The pair served up memories of their similarly key alliance of 144 for the sixth wicket against Australia at Hobart earlier in the season, this time beefing it to 160 (for the seventh).
Just maybe, the partnership will eventually prove as influential in ensuring a happy outcome for the Proteas.
It was manna from heaven, albeit still some way short of the record all-time stand for that wicket between these countries – that honour remains the preserve, coincidentally also at the Basin Reserve, of compatriots Jack McGlew and Anton Murray (246 in March 1953)
Even when De Kock and Bavuma were eventually separated, the New Zealanders still held a 14-run lead … but the visitors were far from done for lower-resistance.
Primarily courtesy of the unbroken tenth-wicket stand between Vernon Philander and Morkel, South Africa have opened up some tangible daylight in their favour.
With the latter producing especially expansive drives and cuts, and Philander playing some rasping pulls, the duo have posted 47 runs in what they may even bullishly believe is unfinished business.
Morkel has always backed himself at the crease, even if deficiencies against spinners have curtailed his output, and is now part of a record-equalling (that could quickly change on Saturday, of course) last-wicket SA stand against NZ.
McGlew, again, and off-spinner Harry Bromfield also posted 47 runs against these opponents at Port Elizabeth in February 1962.
The beanpole Morkel took a blow from a Tim Southee lifter smack on the helmet’s badge at one point on Friday, but seemed none the worse after an impromptu medical inspection, and is closing in invitingly, with his 31 not out, on his Test personal best of 40 against Australia in Sydney.
Remember that Morkel already has a treasured spot in batting statistical history: he helped a flying AB de Villiers, en route to his Test best of 278 not out against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi (2010), post a still record 10th-wicket 107 for the country against any comers.
He will bend your ear more assertively than ever, no doubt, that his “Haydos” nickname (after Aussie top-of-order great Matthew Hayden) is thoroughly well-merited …
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing