Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Rain diminishes New Zealand advantage

South Africa 123 for 4 (du Plessis 33*, Bavuma 13*, Henry 2-25) v New Zealand
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Two sessions is often too little time to divine where a Test match would go and such was the case in the decider in Hamilton. New Zealand took the early lead when they took two wickets in the first three overs. South Africa would still have felt comfortable with Hashim Amla sticking around and making his 32nd half-century. So enthralling was the action that rain came by no less than three times in five hours and eventually just didn't leave. So a score of 123 for 4, achieved an hour after lunch, remained until stumps.

It was typical that a day when the bowlers were having more fun than the batsmen had to be cut short. Helping them was a pitch that bore a strange look, with tufts of grass in some areas - 11 to 12 mm long according to the host broadcaster's pitch report - and completely bare patches right alongside them. That meant the same delivery, off a similar pace and length, behaved in different ways after pitching. It sped up when it hit the green bits and slowed down off the bald areas.

Amla negotiated the challenge well, batting outside his crease, and playing as late as he could. His 50 included a couple of scorching straight drives, and a picture perfect back-foot punch through the covers that indicated he was settling in for the long haul. But then came the most dramatic ball of the day, not because it did anything extravagant, simply that it made a set batsman play all around it and then shattered the middle stump.

At that time South Africa were 97 for 4, with Faf du Plessis forced to sit through a disdainful examination of technique by Neil Wagner. Again, there was nothing spectacular happening. The left-arm quick was simply testing the South African captain's judgment of off stump, and occasionally sneaking in the bouncer to catch him off guard.

New Zealand's entire day was built around bowling like that, within themselves. The line was wicket-to-wicket to exploit the swing in the air and the surface ensured there was just that little bit of seam movement. The batsmen knew they were high atop a bed of nails. They also knew it could be avoided. Easily, if they had enough balls to leave. If only Matt Henry and Colin de Grandhomme didn't take such despicable delight in pushing people over the edge.

The first to go was debutant Theunis de Bruyn. For most of his 36 first-class matches, he had been a middle-order player. On Test debut he was thrust up to open and couldn't quite deal with the challenge. Fishing at a back of a length delivery from Henry, far enough outside off to be left, he nicked off to second slip.

Then de Grandhomme managed the inverse sucker ball from around the wicket. It pitched on a length and was wide enough to make Dean Elgar think of no reason to play it. Moments later, he was staring at a flattened off stump. The batsman who had spent 772 minutes canoodling the crease in Dunedin was gone inside 15 in Hamilton.

Henry, charging in for his second spell, toppled JP Duminy for 20 with a bouncer just before lunch. The batsman went for an ill-advised hook - what with the ball climing up towards his badge and its line on middle stump not affording him any chance to put power on the shot - and was caught on the long leg boundary. It was an awkward dismissal - both in terms of timing and for the fact that a batsman at No. 4 in a Test side had fallen to the short ball on what has largely been a slow pitch.

So barring the weather, Kane Williamson did not have too many reasons to feel displeased. Things did begin in a fashion that might make him question if his fairy godmother was shirking her duties. He had lost Tim Southee and Trent Boult on the eve of the match and so had to lead a New Zealand side without both its spearheads for the first time in five years. On the day of the match, he lost his eighth toss in a row - so long were those odds that du Plessis buckled over in laughter when he had called tails and the coin came down as he had bid. But it appeared Williamson's bad luck had reached a limit right there, meaning not much of it could seep into the actual Test, one they have to win to level the series. He could use some DRS tips though.

In the 11th over, Wagner's first, Duminy was pinned in front of middle stump. Umpire Bruce Oxenford thought it would have slipped down leg, but replays indicated it would have crashed into the target. In the 18th, they opted to review another lbw appeal that was struck down on the field and were told umpire Rod Tucker had good reason to because it had pitched outside leg. The worst, though, was yet to come. In the 29th over, Williamson was persuaded to tee it up for another lbw only to find the ball had smashed into the middle of the bat. Predictably, when DRS was no longer an option, Wagner produced a peach that took du Plessis' outside edge through to the wicketkeeper and the umpire didn't notice.

With rain forecast on all five days of the Test - Sunday shapes as the worst to be affected - South Africa have not fallen too far behind. They have a 1-0 lead and could pocket another trophy on the road with even a drawn result.

Amla's away drought


No. of consecutive away Test series Amla has now gone without a hundred. Has made 411 runs at 20.55 since his last away hundred - in Colombo, 2014.

NZ's lead


No. of first-innings lead taken by NZ in Tests v SA bigger than their 175-run lead in this match. Only one of them came after SA's readmission.

a first


No. of times before this New Zealand's top three batsmen had made a fifty-plus score in a Test innings at home.

In record time


No. of innings for Kane Williamson to reach 5000 Test runs, the fastest by a NZ cricketer, beating Martin Crowe

A rare opening act


No. of fifty opening stands for NZ v SA in 38 Test inns since 2000. NZ's 1st wicket had averaged only 17.43 from 37 inns v SA since 2000 before this.

In nineties again


No. of consecutive dismissals for Quinton de Kock in the 90s - 91 in the last Test and 90 in this Test.