The tail wagged, then Kagiso Rabada knocked the top off New Zealand's order as South Africa asserted itself on the second day of the second test Saturday in a reversal of form after its crushing first-test defeat. (More Cricket News)
New Zealand was 157-5 at stumps in reply to the Proteas' solid first innings of 364 which was inflated by a 62-run ninth wicket partnership between Keshan Maharaj and Marco Jansen.
Colin de Grandhomme struck an unbeaten half century from 36 balls, then blocked out several overs to be 54 not out when play ended in gathering gloom at nearly 7 p.m. Daryl Mitchell was 29 not out in an unbroken partnership of 66 for New Zealand's sixth wicket.
The second day belonged to South Africa, though the first session and the last hour of the day didn't. South Africa resumed its first innings at 238-3 after gaining the upper hand on the first day but New Zealand took 4-60 before lunch to re-balance the match.
South Africa regained the upper hand when Jansen made 37 and Maharaj 36 in a partnership which lifted it to 364, better than par after it had chosen to bat on winning the toss. The Proteas were bowled out for 95 and 111 at the same venue, Hagley Oval, in the first test.
Their decision to bat was a declaration of confidence in themselves and their first innings effort was a good one, led by Sarel Erwee's maiden test century.
Rabada put South Africa well on top when he dismissed captain Tom Latham in the first over of New Zealand's first innings and Will Young in the fifth over to leave New Zealand 9-2.
South Africa-born Devon Conway fell to Jansen when New Zealand was 51 and first test century-maker Henry Nicholls was out to the same bowler when he was 39 and New Zealand was 83-4. It was 91-5 when Tim Blundell was bowled by Rabada without offering a shot.
Rabada bowled well but looked vaguely uninterested in the first test when he took 2-113 in New Zealand's only innings on a responsive pitch. His wickets were the nightwatchman Neil Wagner and the last man out Tim Southee.
On Saturday, and on a less helpful pitch, Rabada was much more himself, the sixth-best bowler in the world cricket. His lines were searching, mostly full and angled into off stump and he cut down the batman's options. He asked them to play but to do so at some risk. He defied them to play aggressively.
Latham was almost out to the third ball of the New Zealand innings which he turned directly to short leg: the ball passed through the fieldsman's hands and struck the badge of his helmet.
Next ball, the left-hand Latham attempted to clip behind square a ball sharply angled into his pads and was caught down the leg side by the wicketkeeper Kyle Verreyne.
Young also was caught by Verreyne but, this time, lured into a lavish drive by a ball from Rabada which was wide of off. Most of the New Zealand batsmen emulated Young and played as if they were set, as if batting was easy and the ball was asking to be hit. Having batted first, the South Africans knew the dangers in a pitch which seemed docile.
South Africa-born Devon Conway was 16 and batting fluently when he also was caught down leg side by Verreyne, attempting to glance a ball from Jansen through vacant fine leg.
“Obviously this match is very different from the first test,” Rabada said.
“We're competing and that's the way we're supposed to play. I think we're in a pretty good position here.”