South Africa outwitted and outplayed New Zealand in a crushing 198-run second Test victory in Christchurch on Tuesday to draw the two-match series 1-1.
New Zealand, facing a record fourth-innings chase of 426 to win, were all out for 227 eight balls after tea on the final day.
It completed a remarkable turnaround for South Africa who read the conditions far better than New Zealand after being thrashed by an innings and 276 runs in the first Test on the same ground.
Captain Dean Elgar set the tone when he became the first captain to win the toss and bat first at Hagley Oval, demanding his side “front up” after that humiliation and they obliged.
“It paid off for us. I am one for taking risks. This is a big one in terms of playing well away from home,” he said.
“We needed to rise up and level the series. We have shown in the past that we have a lot of character in the team.”
In terms of South African Test victories “it ranks quite high,” he added.
A century by Sarel Erwee laid the base for a first innings 364, Kagiso Rabada took five for 60 as New Zealand folded 71 in arrears and an unbeaten 136 from Kyle Verreynne in the second innings tightened the clamp on New Zealand.
A disappointed New Zealand captain Tom Latham, who saw the chance of a history-making first series win over South Africa slip away,put the blame on his batsmen,
“Our blueprint is about putting a big first innings score on the board, if we were able to do that things might look slightly different,” he said.
“Unfortunately we were not able to build partnerships in the first or second innings.”
– Forlorn hope –
New Zealand started the final day at 94 for four and while Devon Conway and Tom Blundell were at the crease they held hope they could salvage a draw.
But it was a forlorn hope and their 85-run partnership ended shortly before lunch when Conway went leg before wicket for 92.
New Zealand’s hopes of salvaging a draw rose again at 227 for nine when rain forced the players from the field, but it was a brief respite.
The South African-born Conway, who averages a remarkable 63.91 from 12 innings, had added 32 to his overnight 60 and was in sight of his fourth Test century when Lutho Sipamla claimed the wicket with a pinpoint yorker.
Blundell pressed on with Colin de Grandhomme and went to lunch looking set on 44 only to be removed soon after the resumption without adding to his score.
He mistimed striking a short ball from Marco Jansen and skied it to Temba Bavuma at midwicket.
It started a rich spell for Jansen who also took the wickets of Colin de Grandhomme for 18 and Kyle Jamieson for 12.
Kagiso Rabada removed Tim Southee and Keshav Maharaj ended the match with Matt Henry lbw for nought.
It was a disappointing result for New Zealand after their comprehensive win in the first Test and who were searching for a first ever series win against South Africa.
They went into the Test with an unchanged side, relying on a pace attack and no spinner which has become customary on the usually emerald Hagley Oval wicket.
But South Africa noted the second Test wicket was more khaki than green, promoted left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj into the starting eleven and he became a significant point of difference.
Maharaj set the stage in the second innings when he was introduced early and bowled top-order batsmen Henry Nicholls and Daryl Mitchell after Rabada had claimed openers Latham and Will Young.
He then finished off the Test with Henry’s wicket to leave New Zealand yet again without a series win over South Africa after 17 attempts over 90 years.
Latham defended not playing a spinner in his side. “We have our way of how we like to go about things which we have done for so long here in New Zealand,” he said.
“Even though the wicket was slightly flatter it didn’t necessarily offer a huge amount of turn and it was certainly a side that we believed could win the Test match.”