Big task looms for Black Caps batsmen after second test slips away in face of South African counter attack

The diminutive Temba Bavuma kept New Zealand guessing as South Africa fought back strongly.
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES

The diminutive Temba Bavuma kept New Zealand guessing as South Africa fought back strongly.

They call it a long day in the dirt, and New Zealand's cricketers have had a few of them at the Basin Reserve.

So after their hard-earned position of dominance was snatched away by South Africa's Quinton de Kock (91) and Temba Bavuma (89), New Zealand revert to familiar Wellington catch-up mode in this second test. And they'll be kicking themselves.

At stumps on day two New Zealand trailed South Africa by 81 and, after taking the final wicket, will pad up on Saturday needing to bat long and large, on a pitch that should be at its best for runscoring.

Colin de Grandhomme celebrates the wicket of Faf du Plessis on day two of the second test in Wellington.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Colin de Grandhomme celebrates the wicket of Faf du Plessis on day two of the second test in Wellington.

It certainly was on day two, despite South Africa plummeting to 94-6 before de Kock and Bavuma added 160, their country's fourth-highest seventh-wicket stand. The tourists were still rumbling on at stumps at 349-9, after Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel added the final insult with an unbroken stand of 47, extending the fightback to 255 runs for the last four wickets in 65 overs.

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Such a rapid momentum swing took the wind out of New Zealand's sails and could be series-defining as the afternoon that got away. They didn't bowl badly but lacked punch on the flat surface with the old ball, went one-dimensional with the bouncer and offspinner Jeetan Patel found little in his home track to assist him.

Another catch for Henry Nicholls and bowler Colin de Grandhomme, right, and Jeetan Patel help celebrate.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Another catch for Henry Nicholls and bowler Colin de Grandhomme, right, and Jeetan Patel help celebrate.

Neil Wagner (3-96 off 21) insisted after losing the toss and being sent in, they were still in a "pretty good" position with still 270 overs left. He wasn't happy with his own bowling but hailed an outstanding partnership between de Kock and Bavuma.

"It's a lot easier now to bat on and flattened out a bit. That's good for us. They showed once that moisture in the morning goes away it's a lot easier to bat on after lunch," Wagner said.

"Once you get yourself in you can make the most of it. If we can do the same thing and create some partnerships and put the pressure back on them we're a good chance."

Neil Wagner struck with his seventh delivery on day two as New Zealand took control.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Neil Wagner struck with his seventh delivery on day two as New Zealand took control.

It meant for a fourth successive Basin Reserve test, New Zealand trailed after batting first. There's been some big deficits, too: 246 against India (drawn), 135 against Sri Lanka (won) and 379 against Australia 13 months ago.

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That last one didn't end so well, when New Zealand were skittled for 327 and lost by an innings.

In a sobering statistic, New Zealand have only won two tests with greater deficits than they face now: that 135 against Sri Lanka in 2015 and 144 against Pakistan in Christchurch in 1994.

The safe hands of day one centurion Henry Nicholls helped snare two South African wickets.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

The safe hands of day one centurion Henry Nicholls helped snare two South African wickets.

Against an impressive South African pace trio Morkel, Philander and Kagiso Rabada, getting themselves significantly back in front will require serious work. The Basin bounce will interest the quicks, as it did Morkel in a searing spell five years ago, and reverse swing on the abrasive block may be a factor too with Rabada a fine exponent.

Morkel will be smarting, too, after being struck a nasty blow between the eyes from Tim Southee in the late shadows. Southee did well to get the bouncer that high and New Zealand's batsmen can expect a few back, with showers and a strong southerly change forecast.

With no Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson faces yet another stern exam and the likes of Tom Latham, Neil Broom and Jimmy Neesham provide pressure points for South Africa to probe.

Senior New Zealand bowler Tim Southee found swing and snared an early wicket on day two of the second test.
ANDREW CORNAGA/PHOTOSPORT

Senior New Zealand bowler Tim Southee found swing and snared an early wicket on day two of the second test.

It all started so well for New Zealand who brought energy, exploited some swing and crippled South Africa's top order. It promised to be one of New Zealand's better test days in recent memory as the tourists slumped, their captain Faf du Plessis joining the procession as a 1-0 series lead with one test to play beckoned.

Allrounder Colin de Grandhomme got the ball to wobble enough and his double strike to remove Hashim Amla and du Plessis looked the knockout punch. But South Africa gifted some of their wickets too. JP Duminy and Amla chipped to mid-wicket, keeping day one centurion Henry Nicholls in the game.

De Kock and Bavuma followed Nicholls' lead, positive and forthright and punishing anything short or wide.

De Kock arrived in Wellington with a test average of 47 from 17 tests, and an Adam Gilchrist-like reputation for snatching games away. Countering that was his struggles against Patel who'd removed him four times from four this tour.

It all turned when Patel bowled six wicketless overs and de Kock made a statement of intent. He advanced at nearly everything and got a flyer. Southee and Wagner bounced him with four men back on the rope and the ball either flew over them or into wide open spaces as the gloveman looked in complete control.

Bavuma nicked in front of the cordon and lobbed one over the slipping de Grandhomme at mid-on, but was confident against the short ball and treasured his wicket.

 - Stuff

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