Cricket: SA vs NZ – All eyes on Ross Taylor’s injury and other talking points

The first Test between New Zealand and South Africa continues to intrigue after South Africa were dismissed for 308 and the hosts made a solid start to chipping away at the deficit. By ANTOINETTE MULLER

The Test between New Zealand and South Africa  is shaping up to be a humdinger.

South Africa were bowled out for 308 after fine spells from Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, which saw the visitors lose their last six wickets for just 56 runs. Just five runs came from the first six overs of the day before Dean Elgar departed, having added just 12 runs to his overnight score. Caught in two minds on whether to play or leave, Elgar was outfoxed by a short ball and caught behind on a career-best 140.

Temba Bavuma offered some lower order resistance before departing for 64, but the lower order failed to prop up the score much more.

New Zealand have made a solid start to their response, led from the front by skipper Kane Williamson who ended day two unbeaten on 78. Jeet Raval chipped in with a half-century and Ross Taylor had to retire hurt as the Black Caps made their way to 177-3 at stumps on day two. Here are the talking points from day two.

Horses for courses

After winning the toss and choosing to bat first, Faf du Plessis said that they weren’t sure what the pitch was going to do. Two days in, and nobody is sure just yet. There have been agonising periods for the batsmen in this game and, so far, it’s the quicker bowlers who have done the damage. However, there were times where the pitch looked slower and as if it was just starting to offer some turn. The Black Caps’ decision to opt for two spinners could either be the difference between the two sides or look completely foolish. Nobody knows. Elgar described the wicket as being “similar to St. George’s”, which means good, hard graft will be what it takes to win here.

The unbearable frustration of Quinton de Kock

The prospect of  De Kock walking in to bat at number seven in a Test and bashing the spinners around seemed enticing yesterday. On Thursday, though, it offered a big, fat sack of disappointment. With Bavuma the last recognised batsman at the crease – and South Africa needing more runs – all De Kock needed to do was settle down for a few overs. Instead, he faced 26 balls, scored just 10 runs and was dismissed by a spinner who averages 66.00 against South Africa and almost 50 in the last two years. Such is the nature of the firebrand batsman’s approach. He is capable of periods of calm, but perhaps its his lack of first-class experience (he has played just over 40 first class matches) that leads to his brainfades every so often.

Ross Taylor’s absence

Taylor limped off the field with a calf strain with New Zealand on 148-2. With no runners or replacements allowed in Tests, the Black Caps could be without their best player for the rest of the Test if Taylor’s injury proves to be serious. Taylor has struggled with a calf strain before and his reaction to being helped off the field was enough to fuel speculation that his time in this match – and possibly the series – might be over.

South Africa always starts slow

South Africa haven’t been bad in this Test, but they haven’t quite been at their very best either. This is nothing new. The Proteas are notoriously slow starters in series and have been for years. The bowlers still have something to work with and, at times, have been ferocious. Morne Morkel in particular has been extremely hostile, probably trying to make up for all the action he missed through injury. The bowlers have to be careful, though, to not become overly reliant on their short-ball strategy. It has worked well for New Zealand in this Test, but hasn’t always been that effective for South Africa.

Kane Williamson’s brilliance

Barring a moment of madness where  Williamson nearly ran himself out, the captain led from the front. While Taylor might be the Black Caps’ best batsman, Williamson certainly is the most consistent.

Quote, unquote

"Any time you play against South Africa, it's always a result pitch. Dunedin has put on a cracking day today and I wouldn't expect it to be much different the next couple of days. As for the weekend, when you live on the coast, predicting the weather two days out can be a bit of a guessing game." – New Zealand coach Mike Hesson on the pitch, the weather and the possibility of a result. DM

Scorecard summary: South Africa 308 all out (Dean Elgar 140, Temba Bavuma 64); Trent Boult 32.4-12-64-4, Neil Wagner 31-8-88-3

New Zealand 177-3 (Kane Williamson 78*, Jeet Raval 52; Vernon Philander 14-4-36-1, Kagiso Rabada 14-3-46-0)

New Zealand trail by 131 runs with seven wickets remaining in their first innings.

Photo: Ross Taylor of New Zealand during day 2 of the 2016 Sunfoil Test Series game between South Africa and New Zealand at Centurion Park, Pretoria on 28 August 2016 ©Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix