Kane Williamson survived the danger of the South African pace attack and the tricky SuperSport Park pitch for 286 minutes before eventually being the last man out for 77 as New Zealand were dismissed for 214 on the third day of the second Test at Centurion on Monday.
Williamson, rightfully considered one of the best batsmen of the modern game, was in the zone for 133 deliveries as wickets tumbled at the other end, before useful runs from the bowlers helped him to lift the Black Caps to a respectable total, albeit one that still left them 267 runs behind South Africa’s first-innings score of 481 for eight declared.
The home side declined to enforce the follow-on and instead an early tea was taken before the Proteas batsmen set about building an unassailable lead.
New Zealand resumed after lunch on 118 for six, and there was some fiery short-pitched bowling from Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn in the second session. Lesser teams would have hidden their women and children away, but the Black Caps bowlers decided to fight fire with fire, and the highlight of the afternoon came when Neil Wagner, a son of Pretoria, took 18 runs off a Steyn over with some ferocious hook shots.
Steyn should have kept his cool and just pitched the ball up to the tailender, but eventually he won the battle (as the bowlers usually do) when Wagner edged another massive hook to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. But not before he had scored 31 runs off just 30 balls.
Rabada struck first after lunch when he trapped Doug Bracewell lbw for 18, nipping the ball back to catch the batsman on the crease, and should also have claimed the wickets of Tim Southee and Wagner.
He softened Southee up by hitting him with a short ball, the batsman then backing away at swatting the next delivery straight back at the bowler. Rabada had the catch but just couldn’t hang on to the caught-and-bowled chance.
Wagner had just two when he flapped a pull at Rabada and was caught in the slips. The batsman decided to review, and it was discovered that Rabada had actually overstepped and bowled a no-ball.
Rabada will nevertheless be well-pleased with his figures of three for 62 in 16.3 overs, and he claimed the big wicket of Williamson when the batsman was not able to control a hook at a bouncer that went above his head, feathering a catch to the wicketkeeper.
Tim Southee (8) was the other batsman to go after lunch, backing away to try and cut spinner Dane Piedt, who crammed him with turn and bounce, De Kock taking a sharp catch behind the stumps.
Steyn finished with three for 66 in 20 overs, which sees him go to 411 Test wickets, just 10 behind Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421, while Vernon Philander took two for 43 in 15 overs.
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.
New Zealand began the day under pressure on 38 for three, but Williamson and Henry Nicholls batted well in the first hour as they raised a fifty partnership despite the probing bowling of Steyn and 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 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 change room.
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, and the champion paceman insisted 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.