SA in New Zealand

Proteas where they want to be

2012-03-25 11:59
SA coach Gary Kirsten and captain Graeme Smith (AP)

Cape Town - Never mind that New Zealand, unusually, have survived a 25-over bombardment without losing a wicket yet in their first innings.

South Africa achieved their primary objective on Sunday, in the final Test at Wellington, by posting enough runs of their own to all but make certain that they cannot lose the encounter.

Declaring half an hour into the last session of the third day’s play with a beefy 474 runs on the board and a wicket in hand, they lead by a massive 409 runs and it will take a miracle for the Black Caps to manufacture an equalising victory from here.

So the Proteas are within a whisker of clinching their first series triumph in this country -- never an easy place to tour, regardless of the Kiwis’ lowly ranking -- since 1998/99 under Hansie Cronje’s captaincy.

They look like the only side capable of actually winning this Test, even if it will require hard work on a Basin Reserve track offering some bounce but little “sideways” factor at present – and probably the need to make the New Zealanders follow on to do so.

Despite Martin Guptill and Daniel Flynn offering commendable resilience, with a bit more luck the South African pace attack could have snared two or three wickets, so don’t expect their wicket-seeking spirits to slacken off just yet.

Throughout the tour they have been good at turning one strike into three or four pretty quickly.

Whatever happens over the remaining two days, assuming they don’t spectacularly botch the game, the Proteas’ jigsaw is beginning to fit rather nicely as they weigh up the next Test challenge in England later in the year.

The one prior bugbear in this series had been a failure by Graeme Smith’s team to post convincing first-dig totals: 238 at Dunedin and 253 at Hamilton. That drawback has been commandingly addressed here.

It will be greatly pleasing to Andrew Hudson and his co-selectors, too, that the backbone to the innings came via a partnership of exactly 200 runs between Alviro Petersen and JP Duminy.

The former had entered the Test under a bit of new pressure to deliver, and responded in ideal fashion – through a career-best 156 in well over eight hours of admirable durability.

Duminy also getting to three figures, while playing as a replacement for injured Jacques Kallis, is a forceful reminder to various incumbent South African batsmen that they cannot rest on their laurels, and that is a healthy situation for any side to have.

The fact that Mark Boucher (a sometimes disdainful innings of 46) was among those to produce tidy cameo roles will also be making the camp feel a lot better about the health of the No 7 spot in the order with England in mind.

South Africa’s veteran wicketkeeper, eyeing up a fitting Test-level swansong in the home of cricket in a few months’  time, is playing with much improved fluency and assuredness, whilst Vernon Philander again also producing tail runs without too much trouble is a further cause for some pleasure.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  sa in nz  |  cricket
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