Bowlers hold the key on day three

2013-01-04 09:24

New Zealand 45 and 169/4 (Brownlie 69*, McCullum 51, Kallis 2/19, Robin Peterson 1/21) South Africa 347/8 declared (Petersen 106, De Villiers 67, Amla 66, Kallis 63, Boult 3/78, Martin 3/63)

New Zealand trail by 133 runs

New Zealand’s aim was to bat out the one-and-a-half session to push the game into the third day, and by all accounts they succeeded and in the end could look forward to talking about a massive improvement after the shambles of the first day.

It was mainly due to a vigorous counterattack in a spunky 81-ball 89 run association between Dean Brownlie and Brendon McCullum.

After a spineless first innings performance and a timid dismissal for the captain, it was welcome tonic, especially after the vitriol spewed at the visitors. It will not be enough to save the game, but a modicum of respect has been gained.

They took advantage of some slack post-tea bowling as the clouds lifted, but when the sun rises this morning, they should expect none of the charity that benefitted their cause, along with the shoddy fielding.

It is a pity that New Zealand do not have the armoury to ram home any advantage handed to them, but their aggression, so missing in the first innings, embodied New Zealand cricket of the past: that of brave, backs to the wall cricket despite the trouble they are in.

The significance of the anger channelled through the willow was the increase of the run rate after tea, which was hovering at around 2.6 an over, exploded to 3.9 before wickets and smarter bowling brought it back.

The session was as bad as the 178-run haemorrhaging of the first day of the second day in Adelaide, when burger and pies were served up to gluttonous Australian batsman.

The buffet of short balls outside offstump and half volleys were easily lapped up by Brownlie and McCullum, with the former being particularly effective behind square on the offside, even though he was a recipient of two lives.

As good as McCullum’s short rearguard was, a longer innings from him was needed to give New Zealand a sniff as a 302-run deficit is not the easiest to overhaul, but he will take heart from his uncharacteristic and subdued innings.

Still though, the batting holes left by Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder have yet to be plugged. Daniel Flynn’s dismissal late off Jacques Kallis was also crucial, with him being another barnacle; it could have provided Brownlie with a chance of continuing his fireworks. That did not happen though.

South Africa’s innings promised better but delivered little as starts could have been converted into bigger things and drive the mental nail home but credit to New Zealand’s bowling, which improved rapidly.

Ironically, it could be up to the bowlers themselves if they can get a grip on the leather today.

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