KESHAV MAHARAJ claimed career-best figures to help bowl the Standard Bank Proteas into a 1-0 series lead after they completed a thumping eight-wicket win over New Zealand deep into the third day of the second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Saturday.
The slow-left-armer took 6/40 in 20.2 overs to overhaul his previous best of 5/94, which he managed in the previous Test, as the hosts were emphatically dismissed for 171 in their second innings, leaving a target or 81 for South Africa.
And they ensured they got there on the third evening after utilising the extra half hour with Hashim Amla ending unbeaten on 38 – the tourists taking the series lead heading to Hamilton for the final Test starting next Saturday.
A hectic final day had started out with Vernon Philander (37 not out) and Morne Morkel (40) still batting, but after extending their partnership to 59, Jeetan Patel ended the Proteas’ innings on 359 and a lead of 91.
Morkel then claimed the first three wickets to fall, including that of captain Kane Williamson (1) after a rare double failure, leaving New Zealand on 64/3.
Maharaj followed that by accounting for first-innings centurion Henry Nicholls (7) and Jimmy Neesham (4), leaving the hosts five down with only 90 on the board.
Opener Jeet Raval’s highest Test score of 80 momentarily held up the South African charge, alongside 29 by BJ Watling.
The pair put on 65 together for the sixth wicket, but both were then part of a collapse that saw the hosts lose their final five wickets for 16 runs to be all out in 63.2 overs.
Maharaj was undoubtedly the star with his second career five-for stunning the home side. It was also the fifth-best figures by a South African spinner overseas and set up a small chase.
Stephen Cook continued his struggles with 11 and Dean Elgar made 17, but Amla’s calmness took the visitors to a comfortable win.