Centurion: Patience paid off for South African captain Faf du Plessis as he was rewarded with three quick wickets after grinding out a century on day two of the second Test against New Zealand on Sunday.
New Zealand finished the day at SuperSport Park on 38 for three, 443 runs behind South Africa’s first innings total of 481 for eight declared.
Du Plessis made 112 not out off 234 balls and said he had stuck to a plan.
“There is a lot happening in the wicket and we just needed one guy to anchor the innings and keep them out there as long as possible,” he said.
“The plan right from the beginning was to try to get to 400, which is a good score on this wicket, and then have a little dip at them at the end of the day.”
Du Plessis said he and JP Duminy had found batting in the last hour on the first day to be particularly difficult.
His declaration was therefore geared to having New Zealand bat when it was most likely to be tough for them in South African winter conditions, with the close coming near sunset.
“The grass stands up a little more towards the end of the day and because of the light you can see the little indentations on the pitch which you don’t see when the sun is shining brightly in the middle of the day. It plays on your mind a bit.”
In an era of rapid scoring in Test cricket, much of South Africa’s innings was a return to a more attritional age, with the run rate hovering at around three an over.
Du Plessis was particularly cautious as he tiptoed to a fifth Test century off 225 balls.
But it paid off as reunited fast bowling pair Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander ripped out both openers before Ross Taylor was run out.
It left New Zealand in deep trouble in a match which will decide the series after the weather-hit, abandoned first Test in Durban.
Taylor run out
Martin Guptill survived a sharp chance to Stiaan van Zyl at third slip off Philander when he was on four, with the ball bursting through the fielder’s hands for four more runs.
But he gave a more straightforward chance to the same fielder in Philander’s next over without adding to his score.
Steyn then had the left-handed Tom Latham caught behind off an inside edge for four, although it seemed a controversial decision. Umpire Paul Reiffel gave the batsman not out and South Africa sought a review.
It was clear that the ball had deviated off the batsman’s trousers but only the faintest flicker on the ultra-edge device gave any indication that it had touched the bat first.
But television umpire Richard Illingworth decided it was enough evidence to overturn his colleague’s decision.
Much then depended on New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Taylor, his most experienced team-mate.
Taylor was struck twice, on the shoulder and arm, by lifting deliveries from Steyn and scored only one before pushing a ball from Kagiso Rabada to midwicket. He set off for a run, was sent back by Williamson and was beaten by a direct hit from Temba Bavuma.
Pretoria-born Neil Wagner was New Zealand’s most successful bowler, taking five for 86.
“Neil’s been outstanding for a long period of time,” said fellow fast bowler Tim Southee.
“He’s just reaping the rewards for the efforts and the tough overs he’s bowled throughout his career. He keeps running in and will make something happen from nothing.”
Southee collected a solitary wicket and conceded 114 runs.
“It was frustrating,” he admitted. “When the ball did something it did too much, but credit to the way South Africa batted, particularly Faf.”