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
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
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
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
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 …
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