The Standard Bank Proteas will need to be strategic in their approach as they map out the way to a possible victory on the final day of the first Test match against New Zealand in Dunedin on Sunday. Heavy rain has been forecast for most of the day on Sunday, but all three results remain possible if the weather stays clear at the University Oval.
The match has been an intriguing battle between the teams, a gripping contest which has see-sawed from one side to the other. Proteas batting coach, Neil McKenzie, says the team is hoping to set up a situation which allows them to dictate their terms in the match.
“It’s about dictating terms and the batting time,” McKenzie said on Saturday. “I think another 60 or 70 runs is not going to come in 10 overs, that is the nature of the wicket. We have to graft upfront tomorrow to try and take that lead beyond 270 so you can dictate when to declare and when to have a look at New Zealand’s batsmen.
“In their dressing room they will be looking at getting a couple of early wickets tomorrow and to run through us to try and chase 230. Those 30 – 40 runs on this type of wicket make a massive difference.”
Dean Elgar fell 11 runs short of becoming the 13th batsman to score a pair and a hundred in each innings of a Test match. He has faced 548 balls this Test match for his 140 and 89 – the most balls faced by a visiting batsman in a Test in New Zealand – and has held the first and seconding innings’ together for the Proteas in challenging conditions.
The batsmen had to adopt an attritional game plan against a persistent and disciplined attack like they did in the first innings, a situation that suited Elgar’s personality and batting style to the tee.
“Everyone has had to dig deep,” McKenzie said of the batting performance. “It’s not a fluent pitch, a lot of the guys who have come in, you see getting off the mark has been quite a struggle. It took Kane Williamson 10 balls to get off so it has been tough, but I think that is why Dean enjoys it. He is a gutsy, gritty type of cricketer, it suits him down to the wire, you have to work hard for the runs. He knows Test cricket is not about fluent runs, it’s about the ugly hard runs.
“He is 30-odd, he knows his game and what he has to do,” McKenzie added. “He has been a lot smarter, he is batting well. In the Sri Lankan series, he put a few scores together, there has been a big emphasis in the South African side to double up. A lot of guys have scored hundreds and then gone quiet. We have put a lot of emphasis on whomever has got the form to go with the form.”
Faf du Plessis (56) - another fighting character- and Vernon Philander (1) will resume the contest on day five with the score on 224/6 with a lead of 191. Play is scheduled to start at 10h40 local time. A maximum of 95 overs will be played on the final day.