Proteas

History points to big Proteas win

2016-08-30 09:52
Faf du Plessis (Gallo)

Cape Town – If statistical history proves a reliable barometer, South Africa will comfortably clinch the second Test and mini-series against New Zealand at SuperSport Park over the next day or two.

The prospect of further, glorious Highveld weather for days four and five – in stark contrast to the problems experienced from the elements in Durban a few days ago – only stiffens the likelihood that the Proteas will cruise home.

There was some debate over the wisdom of acting captain Faf du Plessis not enforcing a follow-on on Monday, but even as the SA second innings has not followed quite the intended levels of prosperity, a lead of 372 with four wickets in hand (ahead of Tuesday’s play) already seems a massive ticket toward triumph.

The longer this Test drags on for, the trickier it will clearly become for batting with its increasingly uneven and spiteful bounce, and I am among those with no beef about the decision by South Africa to exercise their right to take the Test’s third knock.

The stats at Centurion do desperately little to suggest the Black Caps will be able to chase down anywhere near 400 – and perhaps it will yet be even more than that -- to dramatically snatch the match and series honours.

Only four times has a fourth innings at the still relatively “young” Test venue produced a total of 200 or more, and the highest score to actually win under orthodox circumstances is 226.

To letter of statistical law, the successful landmark is actually 251 – but that came in a controversially Hansie Cronje-manipulated Test against England in January 2000.

It was a dead-rubber fifth Test, with his South Africa team already safely 2-0 to the good ahead of it, and because of the strongly disruptive effects of rain (days two to four were washed out), Cronje came to an arrangement with rival captain Nasser Hussain where England declared their second innings at 0/0 and SA forfeited theirs – the home team had registered 248 for eight in their first knock.

So a “one-day” finish was effectively teed up on day five, when the sun finally made a merciful return, and England chased down a target of 249 in 75.1 overs, and for the loss of eight wickets, to secure a consolation win.

The more legitimate, leading occasion when a fully-contested Test was decided by a successful fourth innings came in the SA v Sri Lanka series in March 1998 (second Test).

South Africa required 226 to win, and reached the mark pretty easily to prevail by six wickets, Cronje scoring 82 and Gary Kirsten 75 not out.

But it will be no special comfort to the New Zealanders, in the current Test, that that outcome was achieved without even having to utilise fifth-day conditions; it was all over during the fourth day.

By Wednesday, if the current clash even goes that far, SuperSport Park should be a real day-five minefield …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  faf du plessis  |  cricket
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