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