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Persistent rain on the fifth day of the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand saw the match end as a draw.
New Zealand, having eight wickets in hand, needed 264 to win the test and draw first blood. However, the rain had the final say and washed out all hope of any play.
South African Captain, Graeme Smith, was disappointed with the draw, and said: “The weather was always going to be a factor, they took a chance with the weather and the weather ended up winning the day. That’s the reality of playing over here.”
New Zealand won the toss and Captain Ross Taylor decided to bowl first because he expected the pitch to get slower as the match progresses due to the overhead conditions.
South Africa got off to a decent start before losing opener Alviro Petersen. However, Captain Smith and Hashim Amla soon rebuilt the damage done and looked to be in full control of the New Zealand bowling attack.
The pair put together a healthy partnership of 52, upon which Smith made his 31st test half century, before he was given some trouble by the New Zealand bowlers. He finally buckled under the relentless pressure and was caught out on 53.
New Zealand were licking their lips as Jacques Kallis, a veteran of test cricket, stepped to the crease. New Zealand, sensing Kallis was under pressure, struck right away as Kallis departed on the second ball he faced.
Things went from bad to worse for South Africa, as AB de Villiers came in and one ball later went back to the pavilion, leaving New Zealand pace bowler Chris Martin on a hat-trick.
Unfortunately, Martin was unable to get his hat-trick, but his strikes had taken both a physical and psychological toll on the South African batsmen, as they continued to fall.
Amla, however, continued to put up a fight, but with the continuous fall of wickets, he had to go on the offensive and ended up being dismissed on 62.
Jacques Rudolph was the only other batsman who helped make a valuable contribution, as he scored his 10th test half century, making 52.
New Zealand’s Chris Martin inflicted the majority of the damage, as he picked up four wickets, but, he was also supported by Doug Bracewell, who had two wickets. Daniel Vettori and Trent Boult had a wicket each in the effort to restrict South Africa to a total of 238 runs.
South Africa were busy talking about a game plan as the New Zealand openers, Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill walked out to the crease.
South Africa’s game plan must have been to attack right from the beginning, as the New Zealand openers were forced to play very defensively against a charged up South African bowling attack.
However, South Africa, were rapidly able to break through the openers defenses, as they took them both out in quick succession.
Brendon McCullum and Captain Ross Taylor put together a fighting partnership of 65 runs, before both of them were dismissed under the continuous wrath of the South African bowling attack.
McCullum, fell just two runs short of a half century, while Taylor was dismissed six runs shy of his half century as well.
The departure of both McCullum and Taylor, seemed to take its toll on the other middle order batsmen as they too succumbed to the onslaught of the bowling lineup.
Vettori and debutant Kruger van Wyk pulled together and posted a 53 run partnership in a valiant effort.
However, soon, the South Africans were into the tail of the New Zealand batting lineup and removed them in quick fashion. All, except Trent Boult, who had a little last minute batting display, making 33 runs off just 28 deliveries, which included three massive sixes.
All the South African quick bowlers had claimed wickets, with Vernon Philander topping the lot, taking four. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel had two each in a great effort to limit New Zealand to a small lead.
With New Zealand bowled out on 273, they only had a lead of 35 runs.
The South Africans, wanting to put their dismal first innings behind them, set to work to post a formidable total for New Zealand to chase in order to win the test.
Petersen and Amla didn’t fare too well, as both were removed early into the innings.
However, Captain Smith and Kallis, went on a rampage and destroyed the New Zealand bowling, in one of the classiest batting displays the world will ever see. Soon Smith brought up his 24th test century, and Kallis was quick to follow with his 42nd, as the pair put together a dazzling 200 run partnership.
Once Smith was dismissed on 115 and Kallis on 113, things just got worse for New Zealand, as Jacques Rudolph started his onslaught. He and AB de Villiers made a quick 70 run partnership before de Villiers was dismissed.
But, the departure of de Villiers did not stop Rudolph as he was involved with another big partnership, this time an unbeaten 82 runs with Mark Boucher. To make things better, he brought up his sixth test century as well, as the pair remained unbeaten when Captain Graeme Smith called them both in and declared on 435, leaving New Zealand 401 runs to win, which if they were able to achieve, would be their highest run chase ever.
Doug Bracewell took three wickets, while Trent Boult and Kane Williamson picked up a wicket each in an attempt to slow down the South African batsmen.
New Zealand did not start as well as they would have hoped in reply, as Martin Guptill and Rob Nicol were again taken out early in the innings.
Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor came to the rescue for New Zealand again, making an unbeaten partnership of 82, with McCullum on 58 not out, his 21st test half century, and Taylor on 48 not out at the end of the fourth day.
Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir both had a wicket to try and derail New Zealand’s chase.
With the continuous fall of rain on the fifth day, there was no chance of any cricket on the day and the match ended as a draw.
Captain Ross Taylor was hoping to have a chance to battle on and try to lead New Zealand to victory, but due to the rain, it didn’t happen. “It would have been an interesting day’s cricket, we were still a chance of getting 260 more but I’m sure that South Africa would have also wanted to get out there” he said.
Captain Graeme Smith was also eager to bowl out New Zealand, in order to give South Africa the upper hand in the series. “We expected the rain. That’s why we gave a pretty sporting declaration, to give ourselves an opportunity to try and win the game, Brendan and Ross batted well yesterday, but we hoped to have them five down before the second new ball” he said.
With the first out of three test matches resulting in a draw, both South Africa and New Zealand will be gunning for a win in the next test, which will be hosted at Hamilton on the 15th of March.