Black Caps collapse for third-lowest test total
New Zealand's cricket team have experienced some dark days, but this possibly topped them all on the gloom-ometer.
Ironic, then, that they chose a stunning Cape Town morning before a big Newlands crowd to reach one of their lowest ebbs against a powerhouse South African team.
New Zealand crumpled to 45 all out in 19.2 overs, their third-lowest test total spanning 100 awful minutes, and trailed by 207 at stumps on day one of the first test.
South Africa replied with 252-3 as the ageless Jacques Kallis saluted a standing ovation from his adoring home fans in notching 13,000 test runs, while opener Alviro Petersen cruised to 103 not out.
The test is poised to end inside three days and New Zealand will face a huge deficit when they bat again. On today's evidence they won't get anywhere near saving this match and have a long week to contemplate how to put up a fight in the second and final test in Port Elizabeth.
New Zealand's 45 was the lowest test score by anyone since India made 42 against England at Lord's in 1974. The only two worse New Zealand totals were 42 against Australia in Wellington in 1946 and the monumental 26 against England in Auckland in 1955.
This was the equivalent of a senior men's team against the under-15s; the world No 1 against the eighth-ranked battlers. The cry ''are you Zimbabwe in disguise'' went up as restless Cape Town locals, hoping for a contest in the country's marquee test, had to make their own fun.
The collapse was a combination of factors; firstly meek, creasebound batting, then some magnificent seam bowling from Vernon Philander and brutal pace from the world's best, Dale Steyn.
South African great Shaun Pollock, inspecting the pitch at lunch in his commentary role, insisted it wasn't a 45 all out wicket. ''There's nothing untoward there,'' he said.
It didn't look so bad at the time, but Brendon McCullum's decision to bat first quickly became a monumental blunder. Looking to seize the reins in his first test as skipper, McCullum took the risky rather than safe option, given Newlands' recent history and the green tinge to the pitch. It's produced some massive 500-plus totals but also some tiny ones, including Australia's 47, just 14 months previous.
Philander snared the first five as he made every batsman play and seamed the ball both ways on an impeccable length. All he needed was six overs to take 5-7, giving him 26 wickets against New Zealand at 12.77.
From Martin Guptill's prod at Philander's sixth delivery, the batsmen looked bamboozled and didn't have the techniques to cope, moving sideways rather than forward or back.
McCullum was fooled by one that nipped back through a yawning gap while Kane Williamson, topscorer with 13, was also trapped on the crease by a similar delivery.
Dean Brownlie, a late inclusion after Peter Fulton's tour-ending knee injury, lasted three deliveries and BJ Watling was removed first ball by a cracker.
By the time James Franklin arrived, their confidence was shot and he waved the bat at an innocuous Morne Morkel half-volley.
Then the fearsome Steyn, who'd been too wide in his first spell, returned with a brute of an outswinger to send Doug Bracewell's off stump cartwheeling.
It was Steyn's 300th wicket in his 61st test as he drew level with Richard Hadlee and Malcolm Marshall in third-equal fastest to 300 wickets. Dennis Lillee (56 tests) and Muttiah Muralidharan (58) were the only bowlers quicker to the milestone.
Bracewell raised the tourists' spirits when he struck with his first delivery, trapping Graeme Smith lbw. Eleven wickets had tumbled before lunch.
Trent Boult swung the ball early on but was disappointingly loose and also made some fielding blunders. For a team needing to fight hard the ground fielding was sloppy.
Hashim Amla breezed through to 66 before walking across his stumps against Franklin. But there was no respite from Kallis who dominated from the start, advancing on Jeetan Patel's offspin at will.
Boult, after conceding 37 off eight, returned more accurately and enticed Kallis into a false drive on 60. Petersen added 107 with Amla and 104 with Kallis and was still going at stumps, reaching his fifth test century off 170 balls.
M Guptill c de Villiers b Philander 1
B McCullum b Philander 7
K Williamson lbw b Philander 13
D Brownlie c Smith b Philander 0
D Flynn c and b Steyn 8
B Watling c de Villiers b Philander 0
J Franklin c Smith b Morkel 1
D Bracewell b Steyn 2
J Patel c Amla b Morkel 5
T Boult c de Villiers b Morkel 1
C Martin not out 0
Extras (lb 6, nb 1) 7
Total (19.2 overs) 45
Fall: 1-7 (Guptill, 1.6), 2-14 (McCullum, 5.3), 3-14 (Brownlie, 5.6), 4-27 (Williamson, 7.6), 5-27 (Watling, 9.1), 6-28 (Franklin, 10.5), 7-31 (Bracewell, 13.3), 8-38 (Patel, 16.4), 9-45 (Boult, 18.3), 10-45 (Flynn, 19.2).
Bowling: D Steyn 7.2-2-18-2, V Philander 6-3-7-5, M Morkel 6-2-14-3 (1nb).
G Smith lbw b Bracewell 1
A Petersen not out 103
H Amla lbw b Franklin 66
J Kallis c Watling b Boult 60
AB de Villiers not out 19
Extras (b-1, lb-1, nb-1) 3
Total (three wickets, 64 overs) 252
Fall: 1-1, 2-108, 3-212
To bat: Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
Bowling: Boult 13-0-53-1, Bracewell 17-2-77-1, Martin 12-2-38-0 (nb-1), Franklin 9-1-23-1, Patel 13-1-59-0
NEW ZEALAND'S LOWEST TEST TOTALS
26 v England, Auckland, 1955
42 v Australia, Wellington, 1946
45 v South Africa, Cape Town, 2013
47 v England, London, 1958
54 v Australia, Wellington, 1946