Steyn’s opening burst puts South Africa in command

prv_5d112_1472552467Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander joined forces to rip through the heart of New Zealand’s batting order to leave them in dire straits at 18 for 4 at Lunch on Day 4 of the second Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday (August 30).

Steyn waltzed through the batting line-up by removing Tom Latham, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor for a duck each, while Philander backed it up by winkling out Kane Williamson (5). The visitors require a further 382 runs to register an unlikely come-from-behind victory.

Earlier, Temba Bavuma (40 not out) left an imprint on the proceedings with a gritty innings and helped the home side stretch their lead to 399. The 26-year-old was the pivot around whom the hosts built their second innings. He allied solid defence, with sharp singles and twos to collect useful runs.

For most part of the first session, the right-handed batsman showed self belief and respect to handle the tricky conditions. He alternated between shifting his weight back or forward quickly to negate the threat of variable bounce. As soon as either Trent Boult or Tim Southee over-pitched and provided width, the doughty middle-order batsman threaded the gaps in the field.

He had an injury scare when a back of a length delivery from Southee misbehaved off the surface to cut back into Bavuma who suffered a blow on his right elbow. However, after the physio strapped up his elbow, he continued to bat.

Philander (14), who has two first-class hundreds to his name, gave him good company as the duo stitched a stand of 31 for the seventh wicket. It was Southee who landed the first blow of the day when he befuddled Philander with the off-cutter.

As Southee generally bowls outswingers, Philander shouldered arms, but it turned out to be the slower one and he could only hear the death rattle. Boult, too, got a few deliveries to rear off a length and extracted nifty seam movement off the surface to trouble the batsmen. Eventually, Faf du Plessis, the South African stand-in captain, declared the second innings at 132 for 7.

The Centurion track historically is known for offering variable bounce as the match progresses. The South African pace bowlers took advantage of it to blow away New Zealand’s top-order.

Steyn, the spearhead, removed the openers in the first over of the second innings. Latham’s half-hearted attempt to shoulder arms to a delivery that was slanted across him resulted in the Canterbury opener gloving it onto the off-stump.

Guptill followed his partner back to the pavilion with a forlorn look on his face when he outside-edged a good length delivery that shaped away from the right-hander to Hashim Amla at first slip. Taylor then got an unplayable ball from Steyn that stayed low and was rapped on the pads to be trapped in front. It also jagged away off the seam to compound matters for the experienced middle-order batsman.

Williamson, who in the first innings, showed the required batting nous when the carnage unfolded around him, was soon prised out by Philander. His intended drive to a delivery that nipped away off the seam only resulted in an outside edge and Quinton de Kock made a sparing dive to his right to snap up the chance.

Brief scores: South Africa 481 for 8 decl. (Faf du Plessis 112*, JP Duminy 88, Quinton de Kock 82, Hashim Amla 58, Stephen Cook 56; Neil Wagner 5-86) and 132 for 7 decl. (Quinton de Kock 50, Temba Bavuma 40*; Tim Southee 3-46) lead New Zealand 214 (Kane Williamson 77; Kagiso Rabada 3-61, Dale Steyn 3-66) and 18 for 4 (Henry Nicholls 7*; Dale Steyn 3-9) by 381 runs.

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