Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn bowled South Africa to within sight of victory on a weather-hit fourth day of the first cricket Test against New Zealand at Centurion Park today.
New Zealand were 98 for seven at the close, with their victory target of 249 seemingly a distant dream. Ntini took four for 41 and his new ball partner Steyn three for 35 as New Zealand’s hopes crumbled on an unpredictable pitch under a heavily overcast sky.
Bad light and rain restricted the afternoon’s play to an hour, delaying the resumption after lunch and causing the umpires to take the players off five minutes before the re-scheduled tea break. Only nine balls were bowled after tea before bad light stopped play for the day.
The weather gave New Zealand some respite after a disastrous morning in which they crashed to 34 for six.
Opening batsman Hamish Marshall and hard-hitting wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum staged a minor recovery, putting on 45 before McCullum was the only man to be dismissed during the shortened afternoon.
McCullum made 33 off 38 balls, hitting sixes off both Ntini and Steyn, before he edged Steyn to first slip.
Marshall remained unbeaten on 24 after batting for 145 minutes and facing 77 balls. It was a courageous innings because he took a heavy blow in the ribs from Ntini and was then hit on the left glove by Ntini’s next ball. Ntini started the collapse when he took two wickets in his second over.
New Zealand’s collapse was worse than in the first innings when they were 45 for five but recovered to make 327 and take a first innings lead.
First innings century-maker Jacob Oram was among Ntini’s victims, bowled for two by a fast delivery which kept low and sent his off stump flying. Ntini had Peter Fulton caught behind off the first ball of his second over.
Earlier it took New Zealand 29 minutes and 7.1 overs to capture the last South African wicket, with Steyn and Ntini adding 19 runs to South Africa’s overnight total of 280 for nine before left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori trapped Ntini leg before for 16 with his first ball of the day.
The pitch again gave the bowlers plenty of help, with uneven bounce accentuated by the new ball.
South Africa: 276 and 299 vs New Zealand: 327 and 98/7 (Marshall batting 24, McCullum 33; Ntini 4/41, Steyn 3/35).