3rd Match: New Zealand v South Africa at Hobart, 15 Jan 2002|
South Africa innings:
New Zealand innings:
PROTEAS VAULT TO TOP SPOTSouth Africa has today prolonged a proud unbeaten record in limited-overs matches against New Zealand that stretches all the way back to February 1999. But it didn't necessarily do so with complete control. Instead, it benefited from a controversial decision and was forced to work long into the afternoon before a Black Caps collapse finally brought it a 26-run victory in the teams' VB Series match here at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart.
For more than 80 overs, the teams were locked in an old-fashioned arm wrestle. When captain Stephen Fleming (85) led New Zealand to a scoreline of 2/152 in mid-afternoon as it pursued South Africa's formidable 7/257, his team even appeared on the brink of victory.
This was despite the fact that Daniel Vettori (2/37) had been the only menacing member of the Black Caps' attack earlier in the day. And it also put into shade the notion that that they had finished on the wrong side of a caught and bowled decision that permitted Mark Boucher (30*) to avail himself of far more runs than should have been offer during the closing stages of South Africa's innings.
Ultimately, it was only a slide that saw seven New Zealand wickets crash for 50 runs that put paid to suspicions of a successful pursuit.
Through the match's closing hour, the bowling of Allan Donald (3/40), Makhaya Ntini (2/36) and Lance Klusener (2/56) proved the difference. Ntini, exploiting as he did occasional signs of variability in bounce in the pitch from the Church Street End, was near-impossible to counter in two of the spells of the tournament.
Also underpinning the South Africans' win - one that takes them to the top of the table at the completion of the first full round of this triangular series - was a masterful exhibition of opening batting earlier in the day from Gary Kirsten (97).
Others may be tempted by the idea of rotation but Kirsten is one player the Proteas should never rest. Until his stay was tragically cut short by a run out, the left hander held the Proteas' innings together by accumulating runs while eliminating risk. He was the lynchpin in crucial partnerships of 82 runs with Herschelle Gibbs (36) at the top of the order and 75 with Boeta Dippenaar (37) for the second wicket. Moreover, the 34-year-old opener illustrated that nothing substitutes for either determined occupation of the crease or the ability to play each ball on its merits.
In the absence of Jacques Kallis to an ankle injury, the New Zealanders were granted an opportunity to open up the South African upper and middle order with rigid adherence to a good line and length.
Their error was to do so too late in the piece; only after the Proteas' total had spilled to the mark of 1/157 after 32 overs did they began to make regular incisions. And, even when more accurate bowling and a marked improvement in their fielding quickly delivered the wickets of Dippenaar, Jonty Rhodes (13), Kirsten, Neil McKenzie (22), Klusener (5) and Shaun Pollock (0), they were unable to complete the job.
Also stifling their progress was a decision by umpire Daryl Harper to reject a speculative caught and bowled appeal against Boucher (on 8) as he drove, off what initially seemed to be the bounce, back to Chris Cairns (1/54). Television replays later suggested it was a fair catch rather than a 'bump ball', though Cairns was strangely the only member of his team to even bother with the apparent frivolity of an appeal.
Boucher proceeded to slam 22 runs from his next seven deliveries. Later events showed him to be effectively signing New Zealand's death warrant in the process.
Fleming's defiant innings continued to keep the match tightly balanced, even forcing it into a cat-and-mouse struggle for long periods through the afternoon. Albeit that a general lack of support for him ensured, by the finish, that South Africa rightfully emerged as top dog.
After the early loss of Mark Richardson (8), Fleming (69*) initially sought to fortify his side's innings. But, with the shine gradually receding the ball, his confidence grew and so did his collection of well-assembled strokes.
Characteristically strong with his square of the wicket shots, Fleming took advantage of anything with width. Twice, he hammered Allan Donald (1/29) deliveries over square leg and he then greeted the arrival of medium pacer Justin Kemp (0/37) with two delightful drives through cover point for symmetry.
He added 61 runs for the second wicket with Lou Vincent (23) before the latter perished to a regulation edge to first slip off Makhaya Ntini (1/26), and has now added another 68 runs in an unbroken association with Craig McMillan (33*) for the third.
McMillan, dropped on 2 at mid on, has played a generally scratchy innings. Importantly, though, he's found a way to survive. This has been an especially difficult assignment at times against Ntini who has bowled brilliantly - and generally without luck - from the Church Street End.
Ntini's ability to exploit suspicions of variable bounce from the pitch has made him the standout bowler of the match. He has persistently beaten the bat, and also caused serial ducking, weaving and swaying from the batsmen in steepling the ball off a good length on occasions.
Kemp, though expensive, was also unlucky in having McMillan grassed. The pugnacious right hander played an expansive on drive at the medium pacer but only succeeded in lifting the ball just beyond the circle at mid on.
Gary Kirsten made good ground, and was in a side-on position to take the catch as it came down from a ballooning height. But the ball attracted no more than the ends of his fingers.
It could prove a very expensive miss, especially given the lack of bowling depth in South Africa's eleven.
Richardson (8) had made an aggressive start, twice punching deliveries from Allan Donald (1/29) powerfully through the off side. But, when he tried the tactic a third time, it had fatal consequences: a cut off a top edge permitting the ball to carry all the way to Lance Klusener stationed just inside the third man boundary.
Stephen Fleming (33*) and Lou Vincent (22*) were then forced into something of a rebuilding mission. Fleming started nervously, thin inside edging into pad from Donald to save himself from the fate of having an lbw decision upheld against him and then fencing at a delivery from the same bowler and only just having his outside edge beaten.
A Donald wicket maiden was complemented by another maiden from Shaun Pollock (0/16) as the scoring came to a halt.
Vincent, playing flirtatiously at balls just outside off stump at time from Pollock, finally found one that met with his approval as he stepped inside it to thump through square leg for four. It set the tone for a series of attacking strokes: Fleming twice pulling viciously to the boundary in the following over from Donald. As his innings continued to blossom, a number of delightful square drives through the off side also featured.
Hints of hesitation in the running between the wickets, and increasing evidence of variability in bounce, opened up glimmers of chances for South Africa all the while. And there was another narrow escape for Fleming at 19 as he played off an inside edge just past the stumps as Makhaya Ntini (0/7) was introduced.
But, so far, the Proteas have found the task of shattering an upper order about as difficult as their opponents did earlier in the day.
Led by a beautifully measured innings from Kirsten (97), the South Africans had worked their way into an authoritative position at 1/157 by the time that 32 overs had been delivered.
After captain Shaun Pollock won the toss and gained first chance to bat on a generally true pitch, Kirsten and opening partner Herschelle Gibbs (36) were quickly into stride. Gibbs eventually fell to a mistimed cut - as spinner Daniel Vettori (2/37) was urgently introduced into the attack - but not before the pair had added 82 runs at a consistently accelerating rate.
Boeta Dippenaar (37) then joined Kirsten in another productive union, the pair assembling another 75 runs together at a similarly serene rate of progress.
Yet, with nothing to hint at any sign of an impending slide, the South Africans lost their way in a trice.
Their momentum was slowed initially by a wonderful running, diving catch from Craig McMillan at fine leg as he sprinted around 15 metres to his right and then clung on to the remnants of a lifted leg glance outstretched only inches above the ground.
It wasn't necessarily the best catch among those taken to dismiss Dippenaar this summer, but it was a stunner nonetheless. It was also the catalyst for a significant swing in fortunes.
Jonty Rhodes (13) came, played, and departed - all in typically busy fashion - when he lost the bearings of a Chris Cairns (1/54) delivery that held up off the pitch and sparred the ball to Chris Harris from a leading edge to point.
Kirsten's tragic run out three runs short of a century, after Neil McKenzie (22) pushed a ball to Harris at point and set off with the stroke, was arguably the crowning moment of the Kiwis' fightback. There had been virtually nothing in the bowling to disturb him until then, and a three-figured score had appeared an inevitability.
The Proteas were fortunate in the end that they were able to rely on some glorious late hitting from Mark Boucher (30*). Boucher treated Shane Bond (1/64) with complete disdain in the closing overs, even whacking the lion's share of the 19 runs that came off the final over of the innings as he twice planted balls high over the long on fence.
He benefited at 8 from a strange non-decision to uphold a caught and bowled decision as he drove back to Cairns, though the all-rounder was the only New Zealander who seemed even vaguely interested in attempting to convince umpire Daryl Harper of the merits of the catch.
Boucher then slammed 22 runs from his next seven deliveries to hoist his team toward its strong position.
That said, there don't appear to be too many terrors in the pitch and the New Zealand batsmen probably won't be expecting much in the way of alarming movement or irregular bounce this afternoon. The pursuit of such a large target will represent an excellent examination of their talents.
In the main, left handed opener Gary Kirsten (75*) has been the man responsible for the South Africans' fine start. He began the match playing something of a second fiddle role to Herschelle Gibbs (36) but quickly swept past him as he assembled a sweet mixture of drives, cuts and pulls.
With Gibbs, he added 82 runs in methodically efficient style for the opening wicket and has now joined with Boeta Dippenaar (32*) to compose another 65 runs for the second.
Dippenaar is also playing well, several artful late cuts and flourishing cover drives already figuring among his collection of strokes. Like his two teammates, he has found little to bother his progress to date.
For Gibbs' part, he perished in the 16th over - and the first for Daniel Vettori (1/24) - when he played back and top edged, from an abbreviated cut stroke, to Stephen Fleming at short third man. That came as something of a surprise at the end of a mediocre spell of overs for New Zealand which had seen 62 runs rattled on to the scoreboard in the space of just nine overs.
The New Zealanders will be heartened to an extent by the fact that the pitch seems only to be playing more truly with the passage of time this morning. But it has still been a struggle for them nonetheless this morning and, of their bowlers, only Vettori has looked genuinely threatening.
Their opponents look destined to register a very big total.
A tight arm wrestle - the sort befitting a fight for first place on the competition table - prevailed as the match began under sunny skies at the Bellerive Oval.
New ball bowlers Shane Bond (0/24) and James Franklin (0/38) each maintained a disciplined line and beat the bat on occasions, with the latter even able to exploit a hint of variable bounce from the Church Street End in his second over, forcing one ball just below Gibbs' bat as he attempted to cut.
But, as Gibbs began to play more expansively, so there came a transformation.
At the start of the fourth over, he set the tone with a powerful stroke over square leg at Franklin, adding four to the total and appearing to upset the line of the tall left arm seamer. He repeated the dose two Franklin overs later, playing the second shot with even more control.
Although neither was completely comfortable when driving at the pace of Bond, Kirsten then followed suit by guiding a delivery from the right armer expertly over gully and flicking a ball delightfully off his pads through square leg for another boundary shortly afterward.
After helping himself to 11 runs off Franklin's seventh over - with a glorious cut and equally authoritative on and off drives - the left hander's score even rocketed past that of the by-no-means-slow Gibbs.
With an apparent economy of effort, the pair lifted the total from only 16 after six overs to its present imposing-looking level.
The New Zealanders have replaced Bond with Chris Cairns (0/16) at the River Derwent End, and adjusted their field settings consistently - even introducing a leg slip at times for Kirsten - but have battled to find a way through.
They may need to slow the pace of the bowling down, by introducing spinner Daniel Vettori, to bring a corresponding reduction in the run-scoring rate.
Conditions here are fine and sunny at this stage and all looks in readiness for a start at the unusually early time - in this series anyway - of 10:00am. Though the Bellerive Oval is in the midst of a series of spectacular new developments, it remains the only major ground in Australia without light towers. This is therefore one of only two non day-night fixtures in the entire tournament.
The South Africans, maybe even casting half a glance back to their thrilling one-run victory the last time the two teams met at this venue (four years ago), have made a good start this morning in winning the toss and electing to bat. Albeit that they probably won't want to endure quite the heart palpitations this time that came with that extraordinary one-run win four years ago.
The South Africans, meanwhile, have effected two changes, including a significant one forced upon them by injury. Key all-rounder Jacques Kallis has been excluded on account of the nasty ankle injury he sustained on Sunday as the Proteas worked their way to a four wicket victory over the home country. His place has been assumed by fellow upper order batsman Boeta Dippenaar.
Spinner Nicky Boje is also missing, having been replaced by young all-rounder Justin Kemp.
There's better news for Jonty Rhodes, whose elbow has been cleared of significant damage after it played a major role in helping his team gain the four runs needed for its last-over win.
For New Zealand, meanwhile, it's an unaltered line-up from the one that defeated Australia by 23 runs in the series' opening match last Friday in Melbourne.
The Black Caps, confined to the dressing room for long periods the last time they were in Hobart (for the Second Test against Australia earlier this season), should find early encouragement in a pitch that often gives help to the new ball bowlers.
Date-stamped : 15 Jan2002 - 14:41