Maharaj maiden five-for keeps Proteas in contention

Keshav Maharaj celebrates a wicket.

Keshav Maharaj celebrates a wicket.

Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj recorded his maiden five-wicket haul to keep the Standard Bank Proteas in touch with New Zealand on the third day of the first Test in Dunedin.

With the home side threatening to achieve a meaningful first-innings lead, thanks largely to Kane Williamson’s superb century, Maharaj bagged the last three wickets to finish with figures of 5 for 94 and keep New Zealand to a first-innings total of 341.

Facing a deficit of 33, the Proteas lost Stephen Cook to the fourth ball of their second innings when he was adjudged caught behind off the bowling of Trent Boult and neglected to review. Replays suggested his bat had flicked the pad rather than made contact with the ball.

Dean Elgar (12) and Hashim Amla (23) overcame that early loss, as well as the distraction of a 20-minute delay when the stands were evacuated for a fire alarm, to take South Africa to stumps on 38 for one.

While both batsmen made a cautious start to their innings, Amla was beginning to find his best touch by the time bad light halted play with the Proteas leading by five runs.

The day ended with the match as finely balanced as it was when New Zealand resumed on 177 for three, with Williamson on 78.

Nightwatchman Jeetan Patel was dismissed by Vernon Philander in the third over of the day, while James Neesham followed soon after when he became Morne Morkel’s first Test wicket in almost 14 months.

However, Williamson and BJ Watling threatened to take the game away from South Africa as they added 84 for the sixth wicket, taking New Zealand to 277 for five before Kagiso Rabada claimed the most important wicket of the day.

Rabada had battled a stomach bug over the past few days, but dug deep to produce a quicker delivery with the second new ball that yielded extra bounce, forcing the New Zealand captain to edge behind for 130.

Morkel backed that up with the wicket of Mitchell Santner before Maharaj fired an arm-ball through Watling’s defences to dismiss him for 50.

Although Neil Wagner hit New Zealand into the lead with an aggressive 32, Maharaj grabbed the last two New Zealand wickets to limit the damage and record his first five-wicket haul in just his fifth Test.

With the pitch deteriorating and several deliveries from the seamers going through the dry surface, Maharaj will have another big role to play in the fourth innings - provided the weather holds out.

While the forecast for Saturday predicts an overcast day without any rain, the prospects of a full day’s play on Sunday are looking a little glum.