Nicholls, Duminy star on opening day
On an enthralling first day of the second test between New Zealand and South Africa at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, it was Henry Nicholls and JP Duminy who stole the headlines with career-best performances.
Day 1 interactive coverage
A total of 12 wickets fell on the opening day at the Basin Reserve on a day in which the honours were evenly shared between the teams as the contest hangs on a knife's edge.
Winning the toss and electing to bowl first, South Africa would have been delighted to have New Zealand out for 268 if you offered it to them at the start of the day. It could have been a lot worse for the Black Caps were it not for the batting heroics of Nicholls, who scored his maiden test hundred.
Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel struck up front with the new ball to restrict New Zealand to 21-3, before a wicket either side of lunch from Keshav Maharaj left New Zealand reeling at 101-5.
Nicholls continued to score with relative freedom, punishing anything that was over-pitched or had width. His partner at the other end, BJ Watling, knuckled down as the pair partnered for 116 - a sixth wicket record for New Zealand against South Africa.
The duo took the Black Caps beyond tea, before the introduction of JP Duminy swung momentum back in the Proteas' favour.
His offspin accounted for Nicholls (118), Colin de Grandhomme (4) and Watling (34) in three consecutive overs for the part-timer to knock New Zealand back to 222-8.
HIGHLIGHTS DAY 1
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Some lusty hitting from Tim Southee (27) and Jeetan Patel (17 not out) helped push the total along before Morne Morkel removed Southee and Duminy accounted for Neil Wagner (2).
Duminy finishing with figures of 4-47 in 11.3 overs - his best figures in test cricket. Maharaj (2-47), Rabada (2-59) and Morkel (2-82) took the rest of the wickets, while Philander was miserly and probing with his 0-29 in 15 overs.
“It’s something that I’ve been working on for a period of time without reaping the rewards,” Duminy said at stumps on Thursday. “I guess it comes down to opportunities because if you look at recent test matches, our pace attack coupled with Keshav (Maharaj), has done very well. I’ve got the odd over here or there, so there haven’t been many opportunities.
“If you look at a spinner, he generally needs a few overs to get success, and today was one of those days when I had an opportunity and the key is always to try and get a wicket in your first three overs to keep the ball. I was pretty pleased with the way it came out today.
“It is not a wicket that we would think spinners would dominate on,” he added. “I think the plan and strategy we had to take wickets was a really good one. We tried to bowl a bit of a wider line because there wasn’t a lot of purchase there for spinners. I thought our tactics were pretty good.”
268 all out was a decent effort considering the early trouble the New Zealanders were in. Nicholls' maiden ton will forever live on in the memories of those who witnessed his clean and controlled innings. He hit 118 off 161 balls in an innings that featured 15 fours - a stunning counterattacking knock from the left-hander to keep his team in the contest.
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Needing to bat out just seven overs to see out the day, South Africa lost openers Stephen Cook (3) and Dean Elgar (9) in consecutive overs.
Both were out in similar fashion, probing at full balls outside offstump and nicking off to Jimmy Neesham at second slip. Southee (1-18) and De Grandhomme (1-2) did the damage with the ball, before nightwatchman Rabada (8 not out) and Hashim Amla (0 not out) saw the Proteas to the close at 24-2.
A total of 292 runs were scored and 12 wickets fell in an exciting opening day, which saw momentum see-saw. South Africa have eight first innings wickets in hand and are 244 runs adrift on a surface that seems to offer some lateral movement.
“I think it’s his maiden test hundred,” Duminy said of Nicholls. “To come out and play as positively as he did was probably the way to go on a surface like that. He never backed off, always looked to play his shots. On a wicket like that it was the recipe for success and hopefully we can take something out of that.
“It is probably evenly poised,” he added. “Tomorrow is going to be a big day in terms of where this test match goes. We are looking for a ‘three-tick’ day and we going to have to graft hard as a batting unit.
“There was still a little bit in that wicket. It has perhaps kind of died a little but that first hour tomorrow is going to be crucial with a hint of swing with Southee there. We are going to have to bat well.”
NEW ZEALAND: TWM Latham, JA Raval, KS Williamson (capt), NT Broom, HM Nicholls, JDS Neesham, BJ Watling (wk), C de Grandhomme, TG Southee, JS Patel, N Wagner
SOUTH AFRICA: SC Cook, D Elgar, HM Amla, JP Duminy, F du Plessis (capt), T Bavuma, Q de Kock (wk), VD Philander, KA Maharaj, M Morkel, K Rabada