Dunedin, day four

South Africa went into the day in complete control, but will come out of it worried about the weather. Their problems are mostly their own making, though New Zealand have batted decently. They started the day over 200 runs in front and with an extended session the goal ought to have been to increase the run rate with a view to a declaration around lunch. They certainly should have had time to get the lead over 350, which would be very difficult for New Zealand to chase. Instead they batted slowly. Ninety-one runs in two and a half hours would be slow on the first day of a Test, as declaration batting it was maddening. They looked briefly like picking up the pace after lunch, but that didn’t last and soon it was a matter of waiting for Rudolph to finish his century. He did not appear to be in any hurry. When he did bring up three figures before drinks it was still not enough for Smith. When the lead became 399, ie New Zealand would need 400 to win, it was not enough. Instead they batted another six deliveries until a leg bye made the lead 401. I have no idea why Smith would consider one run more important than another over, but more generally I have no idea why South Africa would have batted so slowly before lunch either.

It was poor cricket and poor captaincy, but four and a half session ought to still be enough to bowl out New Zealand, especially the way their quicks started with the new ball. They were on fire before tea and when Philander got the relatively in-form Guptil to edge to slip it looked like just rewards. They eased off after tea though. Tahir came on and looked innocuous. He still got a wicket, but off a knee high full toss that Nicol somehow managed to hit only to mid-on. Another batsman would have hit it into the next county (or the New Zealand equivalent). Instead New Zealand were 55-2 and South Africa had a chance to effectively end the match. They didn’t look really keen though. Tahir stayed on and Steyn was not as incisive as he had been. The bowling was very wide, though that might have been a tactic as McCullum especially had been chasing those. As the innings went on though he settled down and the wide of off stump line became very negative. With rain forecast for tomorrow, one would think that South Africa would be keen on going after the batsmen, but instead they relied on mistakes after tea and have let a large partnership develop.

South Africa will have to bowl much better tomorrow and hope the rain does not play a large part. The way they have gone about trying to force a victory, however, goes a long way to explaining why they are perennially ranked second best.

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