De Swardt leads South Africa’s attack after Rushen’s hat-trick – LSB

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South Africa 220 for 6 (De Swardt 55*, Beddingham 39, Ravindra 3-33) vs. New Zealand

Ruan de Swardt and Sean von Berg dug deep to pull South Africa out of a hole on a typically attritional day of Test cricket. New Zealand tailors valued first-class speculators and were economical. Rasheen Ravindra found buy and dismantled the middle order, but Nos. 7 and 8 were resilient, leading to 27 overs in the final extended session.

The day began with captain Neil Brand surprising the toss by batting first on a grass pitch and going with two spinners. “All the wickets were green and tended to burn after a few days,” he said. South Africa, who have repeated the feat since 2017, are the only team to do so in the last 10 years at Hamilton.

In contrast, New Zealand went with four seamers, including captain Tim Southee, who said he would have bowled first if they had won the toss. The hosts brought on Will Young in place of the injured Daryl Mitchell. Neil Wagner came on for Mitchell Santner, and William O’Rourke was given his debut when Kyle Jamieson was hurt after the first Test.

Clyde Fortuyn’s promotion to the top did not pay off as he was awarded the Golden Duck. He excelled against Matt Henry and Glenn Phillips and took a stunning one-handed hit in the gully. Henry troubled the batsmen with seam movement and Southie found swing but Brand and Reynard van Tonder left the ball confidently, did not fumble the ball and beat them at times.

The brand capitalized on passing balls with aesthetic punches through stealth. O’Rourke, a newcomer brought in at No. 9, was on the receiving end several times, but got a long ball to cut back across the inside edge and pin the leader in front of the middle.

Zubair Hamza started cautiously and was given a pound when he got his arms around an angled long ball in Neil Wagner’s first over. Hamza flexed successfully with the ball tracking suggesting it would go past the stumps.

Hamza was resolute in defense but was unable to rotate the strike. Southee and Wagner stuck to their discipline and conceded just five runs between the 21st and 25th overs. Wagner then dispatched the short ball plan by pushing the fielders deep on the leg side. He hit the deck, pointed it out and got a spongy bounce off the pitch but Van Tonder couldn’t ride the bounce and ended up blocking it in front of Tom Latham in the gully. The third wicket tilted the session in favor of the hosts.

The second session was an exercise in psychology as David Bedingham and Hamza were willing to weaken the bowling despite the runs being halted. Henry and O’Rourke held their lines and lengths, and Ravindra, brought on in the 36th over, began his spell with four wickets.

The ball would hit the racket every now and then, and when the shots came through, they went straight to the players. From the over 31 to 44, South Africa scored 12 runs and the duo collectively had 33 runs in 154 balls.

However, after two overs, Hamza ran out of patience across the line, as did a crazy wide ball from Ravindra, and – suddenly – Hamza raced to backward point to score a 99-ball 20. Ravindra then extended Keegan Pietersen’s poor run of form. Shaping by having him push a long ball and catch it on the slide.

It was a matter of points or boundaries from then until tea, but De Swardt’s proactivity followed by solidity in defense was the rare positive South Africa can take from a frustrating session.

At the other end, Bedingham looked confident and capitalized on some rare instances of Ravindra dropping the ball. An action-packed 62nd over took South Africa to 150th, bringing Bedingham four points, but it also ended with his bizarre dismissal. He bowled a seemingly full ball down the ground and straight into Young’s hands at short leg. Young threw the ball to the keeper, who bailed out. A run-out call was sent upstairs by the umpire only for the spin vision replay to reveal that the ball had never hit the ground, and had gone into the boot of Young of Beddingham. So, Bedingham had to return after another start.

Von Berg, the fifth-oldest player to make his Test debut for South Africa, was particularly tentative at the start of his innings. He looked for a couple of sharp singles to get off the mark but was sent back. He survived an lbw close call in the 68th minute over Wagner, as the third umpire felt the ball hit the bat and pad simultaneously.

Gradually growing in confidence, he sent a few short balls from O’Rourke to the boundary and settled as the old soft ball lost its malice. De Swardet, on the other hand, was consistent.

New Zealand took possession of the new ball immediately after the 80 over. Southee caused Von Berg to edge but the ball went over the slip cordon for four and brought up 200 for South Africa. Southey and Henry were taken for boundaries on the odd occasion where they went full but hit a good length for the most part.

Southee hit the pad of von Berg without taking a shot in the 85th over. It was not delivered and the captain ended up burning a review as Hawk-Eye showed that the ball would comfortably go over the stumps. Next time, Southey hit de Swardt in the penalty area. The batsman was down but that was all the batting South Africa would face for the rest of the day.

The green on the field became noticeably lighter by the end of the day. The visitors will be happy to have their inexperienced squad back despite their resistance being shaky. But the hosts maintained that the scoring was always in check and they would be happy to have the spinners between the wickets at home in successive Tests.

Ekanth is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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