Faf du Plessis ground out a determined half-century, a record-equalling one for the Proteas’ top five, as South Africa reached 358 for five at lunch on the second day of the second Test against New Zealand at SuperSport Park on Sunday.
With the pitch still providing a lot of encouragement for the bowlers, it was a top-class effort by the South African batsmen and only the second time their top five batsmen have all passed 50 in a Test innings. The other occasion was against India at the same venue in December 2010, when Jacques Kallis scored his memorable maiden Test double-century (201*) and, with Graeme Smith (62), Alviro Petersen (77), Hashim Amla (140) and AB de Villiers (129) also all contributing, the Proteas scored 620 for four declared and won by an innings.
Du Plessis was on 57 not out at the break, a morale-boosting second half-century for him in his last 16 innings, the captain having dug in for nearly three-and-a-half hours, facing 138 balls.
Stiaan van Zyl had faced just 10 deliveries and had yet to score as New Zealand claimed two wickets in the morning session, both with short balls. On a pitch offering decent bounce, it was not hard to get the short ball well above the waist, although the bounce was still a bit ‘tennis-ball’ like, but the Black Caps produced well-directed short balls.
JP Duminy, whose tenacious innings of 88 ended a run of 11 innings without a half-century, had weathered the early-morning swing of Trent Boult and seam of Tim Southee as he progressed from his overnight score of 67.
But the left-hander then got out in frustrating fashion in the 12th over of the day, trying to hook Southee from outside off stump but misjudging the bounce of the delivery. The ball came off the bottom-edge of the bat and went low to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
Temba Bavuma is obviously in good form but he took his time to get settled, scoring eight in 52 minutes before he too fell playing the hook shot, top-edging Neil Wagner, who is making a habit of getting wickets with the short ball, to fine leg, where Doug Bracewell ran in from the boundary to take a fine catch.
Du Plessis was obviously not at his best and was fortunate to survive the curse of the short ball himself, hooking Boult to deep midwicket when he had 18, where a running Henry Nicholls spilt the catch, the ball going over the boundary for a six.