South Africa claimed three wickets in the last 45 minutes of the morning session to leave themselves in firm control with New Zealand on 118 for six at lunch on the third day of the second Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Monday.
Replying to South Africa’s first innings of 481 for eight declared, New Zealand began the day under pressure on 38 for three, but Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls batted well in the first hour as they raised a fifty partnership despite the probing bowling of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Nicholls could have been dismissed in the third over of the day when he top-edged a cut at Steyn, but the ball burst through the hands of a leaping Faf du Plessis in the slips and went away for four, taking the left-hander to eight not out.
The 24-year-old cut Steyn for two more boundaries in the over and went elegantly to 36 as the partnership grew to 60, but once Kagiso Rabada was in the groove, the mood of the game changed and the batsmen were once again under pressure.
When Rabada fired a fast, full delivery, that held its line, through the left-hander’s defences, umpire Paul Reiffel turned down the appeal, but the TV umpire was called into play by the home side and he correctly overturned the decision, sending Nicholls back to the changeroom.
BJ Watling survived until the prospect of lunch was looming for the embattled Kiwis, but the return of Steyn and Philander ensured the session unequivocally belonged to South Africa.
The TV umpire was once again called into play when Watling gloved an awkward lifter down the leg-side to be caught behind for eight off Steyn, the champion paceman insisting on the review.
The change of ends also worked for Philander as he then nipped a delivery back into left-hander Mitchell Santner to bowl him off the inside-edge for a duck.
Captain Williamson, on 40 not out, is now single-handedly trying to repair the New Zealand innings with Doug Bracewell (1*) the first of the tailenders in his company.