Seldom-used Matt Henry took a career-best 7-23 on his home ground at Hagley Oval as New Zealand bowled out South Africa for 95 Thursday on the first day of the first cricket test. (More Cricket News)
Called into the New Zealand team in the absence of Trent Boult who is on paternity leave, Henry took the new ball and eclipsed his previous innings-best figures of 4-93.
He had 3-16 by lunch when South Africa was 44-4 and added four more wickets, including two with consecutive balls before the Proteas were bowled out about 25 minutes before tea, in 49.2 overs.
Tom Latham won his first toss as New Zealand captain and chose to bowl first on a greenish pitch.
The ball moved in the air and seamed and Henry hit a perfect length to trouble the tentative South Africa batsmen who hovered on the back foot and often came forward to late to counter movement off the pitch.
Henry pitched just short of a length, forcing the batsman to play before the ball moved subtly away or cut back from around off stump. Six of his victims fell to catches behind the wicket while one was lbw.
“It’s a great start to the test match and to the series,” Henry said. “It’s a great feeling to do it at home here at Hagley in front of family and friends.”
Henry has had a checkered career with the New Zealand team. Boult and Tim Southee’s stranglehold on the new ball roles and the recent emergence of Kyle Jamieson as the third seamer has meant Henry has played intermittently at test level. This is only his 15th test since his debut against England in 2015.
He has often looked a better bowler than his 44 wickets at 39.4 tends to show. But because he seldom has been able to play several tests in succession, Henry has struggled to give his career momentum.
“You always want to do the best job you can when you come out, and play when you play odd games here and there it’s not always going to go in your favor,” he said. “To get a bag like that felt really good.
“I think when you woke up and saw the overhead conditions and know what it’s like at Hagley you always hope for a bowl. When we won the toss, it was great to bowl first this morning.”
Henry began with the wicket of South Africa captain Dean Elgar in the second over of the day which foreshadowed things to come. He pitched short of a length and the Proteas captain was drawn forward to drive with the bat well ahead of his body. The ball moved away late off the seam, took the outside edge and Southee held a difficult, low catch at third slip.
Elgar had lost his seventh toss in a row, forcing the Proteas to bat first against New Zealand’s seam-heavy attack.
Henry was a master in familiar conditions. He moved the ball away late from Aiden Markram and it took a thick outside edge before carrying to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell. Having twice been reprieved by the DRS which upheld the umpire’s not out decisions in his favor, Markram again tried to use it to his advantage. He reviewed but replays showed a clear edge.
Four balls later, Henry had the wicket of Rassie van der Dussen (8). He angled the ball into the batsman and it straightened away from off stump. Van der Dussen was squared up trying to adjust for the movement and was also caught by Southee at third slip.
Henry’s figures might have been even better. Zubayr Hamza offered him a sharp chance for a catch off his own bowling which he dropped as he reached down with his right hand.
He quickly made amends when Hamza, then 25, was caught by Blundell in Henry’s next over to leave South Africa 85-6.
Henry trapped Kyle Verreyne (18) lbw, reviewing successfully when the umpire denied his appeal. He followed quickly with the wickets of Kagiso Rabada for a duck and Glenton Stuurman, first ball, on debut to stand on a hat trick with South Africa 88-9.
Last man Duanne Olivier survived the hat trick ball next over and it fell to Neil Wagner to end the Proteas’ innings with Olivier’s wicket.
South Africa’s score was its lowest in 45 tests against New Zealand.