Proteas leave New Zealand, primed for England tour

2012-03-28 00:00

CAPE TOWN — South Africa can go into almost four months of Test-level hibernation in the safe knowledge that they are about as primed as they could possibly be right now for the next big challenge in England.

Invariably there will be a hard-to-please brigade suggesting that the Proteas really did little more than they were expected to do in knocking over New Zealand 1-0 in the three-Test series there.

It is an outcome which does not tell the full story, however, as the tourists were in command for most of the trip, which encompassed a Twenty20 and one-day international series, in which they earned a clean sweep of the silverware.

Seldom have SA displayed such focus, drive, ruthlessness and aggression over the course of an entire assignment abroad, and it was also their best phase of a summer that included visits to our shores from Australia and Sri Lanka during the Proteas were guilty of some patchy performances.

It was a frustrating that South Africa chose yesterday, the final day of the series at the Basin Reserve, to produce their most butter-fingered catching performance of the tour as the Kiwis cashed in on young Kane Williamson’s obdurate unbeaten century to scrape out a rearguard draw.

Then again, compare this Test to the equivalent fixture at the same venue on the last tour of New Zealand in 2003/04. Then SA started a nerve-jangling last day with the game and series on a knife edge, before they got over the line to earn a 1-1 result.

Here, there were virtually no times at all when the Black Caps looked remotely like winning the Test.

Had rain not wiped out the final day’s play in the first Test at Dunedin, South Africa might well have come to the Basin Reserve 2-0 to the good and playing a dead rubber.

The bowlers again did little wrong as a committed and bruising unit in New Zealand’s stoical second innings, with Morne Morkel to the fore as he snared all six wickets to fall for a career-best haul.

The unassuming customer joked afterwards as he scooped the man of the match award that he had “bowled to coach Gary Kirsten’s sons in the corridor [the night before] to prove I can get wickets”.

He had gone luckless in the first innings, without a scalp to show for 20 overs of excellence, although he did bomb poor Ross Taylor out of the contest via a snapped forearm.

South Africa’s batting is also in sound health, especially with “spare” resource JP Duminy making the most of a rare appearance at Wellington with a century.

The Proteas lurk just one rating point behind top-ranked England, currently engaged in their first Test in Sri Lanka, as they weigh up from afar the mid-year expedition there.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Kirsten and company will be to get the Proteas quickly back then (in the midst of our own domestic winter) into the kind of ultra-professional groove they’ve displayed in New Zealand.

 

SCOREBOARD

South Africa, 1st Innings: 474-9 declared

New Zealand, 1st Innings: 275

South Africa, 2nd Innings(Overnight: 75 without loss)

Alviro Petersen run out 39

Graeme Smith c Bracewell b Vettori 41

A.B. de Villiers c Williamson b Bracewell 68

J.P. Duminy not out 33

Extras: (3lb, 3w, 2nb) 8

TOTAL: (For three wickets) 189

Overs: 29.4. Batting time: 148 minutes.

Fall of wickets: 1-77, 2-106, 3-189.

Bowling: Chris Martin 10-0-44-0, Doug Bracewell 6.4-0-47-1 (2w), Mark Gillespie 6-0-55-0 (2nb), Daniel Vettori 7-1-40-1 (1w).

New Zealand, 2nd Innings

Martin Guptill c Rudolph b Morkel 18

Daniel Flynn c Boucher b Morkel 0

Brendon McCullum lbw b Morkel 0

Kane Williamson not out 102

Dean Brownlie b Morkel 15

Daniel Vettori b Morkel 0

Kruger van Wyk c and b Morkel 39

Doug Bracewell not out 20

Extras: (6lb) 6

TOTAL: (For six wickets) 103

Overs: 43. Batting time: 192 minutes.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 1-2, 3-32, 4-83, 5-83, 6-163.

Bowling: Morne Morkel 16.4-7-23-6, Vernon Philander 18.4-6-29-0, Marchant de Lange 17.2-4-77-0, Dale Steyn 15-9-14-0, J.P. Duminy 13-2-51-0.

Toss: Won by New Zealand.

Umpires: Aleem Dar, Pakistan, and Richard Kettleborough, England.

TV Umpire: Billy Doctrove, West Indies.

Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle, Sri Lanka.

Result: Match drawn.

Series: South Africa win three-Test series 1-0.

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