Three New Zealand wickets fell before stumps on the second day of the second Test and were the results of scoreboard pressure after captain Faf du Plessis crafted an unbeaten century to lead South Africa to 481 for eight declared at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.
Du Plessis dug deep for over six hours at the crease in a determined innings of 112 not out, before declaring shortly before 4pm, giving his bowlers 16 overs at the New Zealand batsmen, in which they reduced them to 38 for three.
New-ball bowlers Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn both came up with a wicket before Temba Bavuma effected a superb run out that was a result of the pressure leading to panic.
Martin Guptill did not suggest he was going to last long, being dropped at third slip by Stiaan van Zyl in Philander’s first over, before being caught by the same fielder in the same position in the accurate seamer’s second over, having lasted just 13 balls and scoring eight.
Fellow opener Tom Latham then fell for four in the next over, Steyn cutting the left-hander in half with a delivery that held its line following a series of away-swingers, and confidently appealing for caught behind. Umpire Paul Reiffel gave Latham not out, but South Africa reviewed the decision. Replays suggested Reiffel had done extremely well, with the ball brushing the batsman’s pocket, but TV umpire Richard Illingworth, based on no clear evidence whatsoever, inexplicably overturned the on-field decision and the unfortunate Latham was sent on his way.
The double strike brought Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor together at the crease, the two key men in the New Zealand batting line-up, but even someone as experienced as the 32-year-old Taylor, a veteran of 72 Tests, showed what pressure can do as he ran himself out searching for panicky single.
Struck on the pad by a Kagiso Rabada inswinger, he scuttled out of his crease, was sent back by Williamson, but was unable to beat the swift work of Bavuma, darting from short-leg, turning and throwing to score a direct hit and dismiss Taylor for just one.
Williamson reached stumps on 15 not out and Henry Nicholls was on four.
Du Plessis might have used up 234 deliveries for his 112 not out, but he ensured South Africa rammed home the advantage created by their top-order on the first day.
Beginning the day on 283 for three, both Du Plessis and JP Duminy might have been dismissed in the opening hour as the ball hooped and seamed around in the cool morning air. Du Plessis was not only dropped on 18 by Nicholls at deep midwicket after he hooked Trent Boult, but also received a boost of six runs as the ball was parried over the boundary by the fielder.
Duminy was not so fortunate three overs later when he tried to hook Tim Southee but misjudged the bounce and bottom-edged a catch to wicketkeeper BJ Watling. The left-hander did not manage to register his first Test century since July 2014 against Sri Lanka in Galle, but his 88 was a timely return to form. We all know how talented and elegant Duminy is at his best, but he has finally posted a score that shows he can look good and produce the goods.
Bavuma (8) was perhaps guilty of trying to play the hook shot too early on a pitch he knows is providing awkward tennis-ball bounce, and he top-edged Neil Wagner to fine-leg, where Doug Bracewell took a fine catch running in from the boundary.
Stiaan van Zyl then featured in a sixth-wicket stand of 84 with Du Plessis, scoring just nine of the first 50 runs as the captain cut loose after lunch against a flurry of short balls that were a feature of New Zealand’s bowling in the afternoon.
Van Zyl made 35 before being caught at a well-placed fly-slip by Taylor after edging an excellent Wagner delivery that was angled in from over the wicket but held its line.
Left-armer Wagner, coming back to the ground where he used to watch cricket as a youngster along with Du Plessis, celebrated a well-deserved five-wicket haul as he bowled Philander for eight, managing to get an old ball to come back through the gate and send the off-stump tumbling.
Rabada made seven before he slog-swept left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner straight to deep midwicket and some lusty swinging from Steyn (13*) provided some entertainment, and the rare sight of the ball sailing over the main grandstand roof, before the declaration.