Ross Taylor 'not too good' after calf injury drama as Black Caps captain Kane Williamson carries heavy burden
A scan on Friday morning will determine Ross Taylor's involvement in the rest of this test cricket series, but in the words of his New Zealand team-mates it doesn't look great.
It leaves captain Kane Williamson carrying a heavier than usual burden into day three of the first test after his fighting unbeaten 78 against South Africa was clouded by a pained Taylor limping off University Oval.
New Zealand's senior batsman could barely walk and was assisted off, shaking his head, after suffering a right calf injury which forced him to retire hurt on eight. Meanwhile Williamson dug in, adding 102 with Jeet Raval (52) and surviving till stumps to give the Black Caps the day two honours and move within sight of Taylor's test century mark of 16.
An absorbing, sun-drenched test match resumes at 11am with New Zealand 177-3 in reply to South Africa's first innings of 308. With New Zealand fighting hard it's evenly poised, but with Taylor in serious doubt South Africa essentially have a crucial extra wicket.
"He looks pretty disappointed as we can all understand. The way he walked off it doesn't look too good but we'll see how he pulls up tomorrow," said Trent Boult, New Zealand's bowler of the day with figures of 4-64.
Taylor - whose University Oval test average stood at 78 - survived an intense Morne Morkel over and copped a bouncer to the helmet before taking off for a single and slowing to a walk. He was treated by a doctor at the ground then returned to the team hotel and was booked for a scan on Friday morning.
With nightwatchman Jeetan Patel still there and Jimmy Neesham, BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner to follow there's batting to come, on a slow pitch offering little for the quicks and not yet turning prodigiously.
"It's nicely balanced and still a lot of good quality in the changing room that will look to cash in tomorrow," Boult said.
"We've got to look to keep them out there as long as possible. We know the first hour will produce a bit of movement sideways off the wicket, and the plan is to keep them out there, build a big first innings lead and have a crack at them with the new ball."
Any first innings lead would be a good result, with New Zealand hoping the pitch wears quickly for their dual spin attack. As long as Williamson remains New Zealand will back themselves.
It wasn't vintage Williamson who rode his luck. He edged Keshav Maharaj's spin just in front of Hashim Amla on 10 and 40, and avoided being run out by a whisker with a desperate dive after a mix-up with Henry Nicholls.
His duel with Vernon Philander was a gripping one; New Zealand's key batsman against the seam king who arrived with 32 test wickets against the hosts at a phenomenal 15.53.
There wasn't much there for Philander and Williamson defended stoutly then punished anything loose. His three successive boundaries off Kagiso Rabada - confirmed by team management as battling a stomach bug - included two vintage straight drives and took him to an 87-ball 50.
Raval was jumpy early and could have been run out twice on risky singles.
After Tom Latham (10) nibbled at one he should have left from Philander, Raval hit stride to reach his third half-century and, remarkably, help Williamson post New Zealand's only century stand for the second wicket against South Africa.
Raval's highest test score remains 55 after he guided one to short mid-wicket in a disappointing ending to a valuable knock.
If nothing else, New Zealand have proven themselves competitive with powerhouse opponents after an impressive showing to date. They just need to maintain it now and Williamson holds the key to that.
Arriving with South Africa 229-4, the ideal result was a sub-300 total and they nearly got there after the tourists lost 6-56.
Boult was the standout in his 32.4 overs, including 12 of the 39 maidens New Zealand bowled. It was impressive all round; Boult charging in, generating swing, changing his angles and attacking the stumps. Neil Wagner produced another snorter to remove Dean Elgar for his highest test score 140 and Patel snaffled the dangerous Quinton de Kock for the third time in as many innings.
Patel took 2-85 off 33 and fellow spinner Mitchell Santner was unbowled on day two, as they loom as the key men in South Africa's second innings. Patel looked more dangerous and now appears clear No 1 in the spin pecking order.