Quinton de Kock and Stephen Cook put on a display of old fashioned Test batting to see South Africa through to Lunch on Day 1 of the second Test against New Zealand at the SuperSport Park in Centurion.
Following the Durban fiasco, where a soggy outfield washed out 11 sessions of play, thunderstorms were predicted for Saturday (August 27) too, but the groundsmen in Centurion were prepared to avert the worst.
The relaid SuperSport Park track had the usual bounce on offer, apart from conditions that would aid swing bowling. Rudolph du Preez, the groundsman, had said that the pitch wouldn’t deteriorate as much as it used to earlier.
Kane Williamson, the New Zealand skipper, went ahead with the favourable option of bowling first after winning the toss. The visitors came in without any changes to their side, while South Africa had to make one. Opener Dean Elgar, who injured his ankle a couple of hours before the toss, was replaced by Stiaan van Zyl.
Despite playing with a reserve opener, the hosts opted to promote wicketkeeper-batsman de Kock up the order. Even as a sparse crowd had gathered at the venue, a guard of honour for the South African armed forces gave an exciting prelude to the cricket contest that followed.
Tim Southee and Trent Boult, operating with the new ball, did well to take advantage of the swing and seam to trouble the openers. While Southee’s outswingers were rather easily dealt with by the right-hander, Boult’s inswingers found him in all sorts of discomfort. The fact that the left-arm pacer bowled a tight line only made it difficult for the opening pair to get too many freebies. De Kock, who was opening the innings for the first time in Tests, latched on to anything loose that Southee offered.
As much as it seemed like South Africa’s session, going by the scoreboard, it were the New Zealand bowlers who dictated the proceedings at the start. Time and again, there were near-misses as the ball beat the bat, hit the pads and edges dropped in vacant regions.
Cook, especially, looked the more troubled of the duo. In the fourth over, Boult managed to get the ball to jag back in after pitching on the middle stump. Paul Reiffel, the on-field umpire declared him not out. But New Zealand were too convinced and decided to take a review. As the replays suggested, Cook had got a slight inside edge on to his bat.
De Kock too survived a dropped catch in the 20th over after Doug Bracewell managed to get the ball to nip back in to the left-hander after pitching. He induced an inside edge, but BJ Watling dropped a regulation catch behind the stumps. De Kock was batting on 42 then.
Soon after the duo had stitched a half century stand for the opening wicket, courtesy a crisp drive from de Kock for a boundary in the first over after drinks, he pulled a Southee delivery that rose sharply after pitching. The ball took the top edge and was in air for long. However, even as two fielders converged towards it, the ball fell in a vacant spot behind the wicketkeeper.
What could have been New Zealand’s best moment, came in the 26th over. Yet again, the bowler was Boult and the batsman was Cook. And again, the appeal was for a leg before wicket. The umpire had declared it not out, and on this occasion, New Zealand refused to take a review. As it turned out, if they had gone for one, South Africa would’ve had their first batsman walking back to the pavilion.
Nonetheless, de Kock grew more confident at the wicket as the session progressed and brought up his third Test fifty by tucking away a delivery towards the mid wicket region.
Neil Wagner couldn’t pose much trouble despite the steep concrete bounce on offer. Mitchell Santner rolled his arms over for a couple of overs. But the left-arm spinner was the least threatening of the five bowlers.
Cook glanced the last ball of the session towards the square leg region to take a single and bring up South Africa’s hundred. The hosts went to Lunch at 100 for no loss, much to the dismay of the visitors.
Brief Scores: South Africa 100 for no loss (Quinton de Kock 58*, Stephan Cook 40*) vs New Zealand