Kyle Verreyne stepped boldly into the vacancy left by the sudden retirement of Quintin de Kock with a maiden century Monday which put South Africa in total control of the second cricket test against New Zealand by the end of the fourth day. (More Cricket News)
Verreyne’s unbeaten 136 allowed South Africa to declare its second innings at 354-9 just before tea, setting New Zealand 425 to win in about 136 overs or four sessions.
Kagiso Rabada, who supported Verreyne with a career-best innings of 47 from only 34 balls, then dismissed both New Zealand openers to leave the home side in a desperate position at 9-2.
An unbeaten 60 by South Africa-born Devon Conway lifted New Zealand to 94-4 at stumps, leaving it still 332 runs behind and with only six wickets to survive the final day. Tom Blundell was with Conway at the close of play, scoreless after 17 balls.
Blundell technically is New Zealand’s last specialist batsman. Still to come is the all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, a century-maker in the first innings, then the bowlers.
South Africa’s performance over the first four days of the match marked an extraordinary form reversal after their defeat by an innings and 276 runs in the first test in which they were bowled out for 95 and 111.
New Zealand needed only to draw the second test of the two-match to achieve its first series win over South Africa in 17 attempts over 19 years. But they saw their hopes of that historic achievement dissolve Monday in the face of Verreyne’s magnificent innings.
The red-haired wicketkeeper-batsman was thrust into his role when de Kock retired unexpectedly after the first of South Africa’s three home tests against India in December. Verreyne previously had played two tests against West Indies as a specialist batsman, scoring 39 runs in three innings at an average of 13.
His 30 in the second innings of the first test against New Zealand was his highest test score at that time. That innings paled into insignificance in the light his dominating performance on Saturday.
Through partnerships of 78 with Wiaan Mulder (35) and 78 again with Rabada, Verreyne ground down New Zealand’s resistance. He reached a half century from 97 balls after resuming Monday on 22 and went to his century from 158 balls in just over four hours.
Rabada drove home South Africa’s advantage with aggressive innings at No. 9 which included four fours and four sixes. New Zealand’s bowlers had been worn down by Verreyne and Rabada compounded their misery as he helped make South Africa’s lead impregnable.
“There was a message that we should try and be positive and that’s what I tried to do, to take the game forward,” Rabada said. “Luckily it went my way.
“I thought about 50 but I thought I should keep on with the tempo. That was best for the team. As long as the team is in a good position, I’m not too worried about personal milestones.”
The one high point in the field for New Zealand on Monday was the catch by Will Young to dismiss Marco Jansen from the bowling of de Grandhomme. Young’s effort ranks as one the great outfield catches: he was left to guard a huge amount of real estate on the leg side had had to dash a long distance before grabbing the ball out of the air with his left hand as it passed him, tumbling as he secured the catch.
It was a brief moment of joy for New Zealand. When South Africa finally declared after exactly 100 overs in their second innings, the home team faced the prospect of having to achieve a world-record fourth innings run chase in order to win.
The previous highest winning fourth-innings total was the West Indies’ 418 against Australia in 2003.
There was some surprise that Proteas captain Dean Elgar batted on as long as he did. There were no milestones pending and every minute South Africa took up before the declaration was a minute less New Zealand would have to bat to save the match.
Rabada made even a draw unlikely with his outstanding opening spell. He removed Young with only the third ball of the New Zealand second innings, caught by Temba Bavuma at gully. Tom Latham followed in the third over, turning a ball from Rabada directly to the man at short leg who took a sharp catch.
Keshav Maharaj struck a critical blow when he dismissed Daryl Mitchell 17 minutes before stumps, after Mitchell had made 24 and shared a 98-minute partnership with Conway for New Zealand’s fourth wicket, adding 56.