Tough order for Black Caps, thanks to Faf
South Africa 505/7 (Du Plessis 137, Amla 110, Elgar 91*, Bracewell 2/85, Boult 1/107)
Faf du Plessis shrugged off a good lunch to make a deserved second Test century, helping South Africa to a mammoth first innings total, solidified by a maiden 50 by Dean Elgar.
The bowling from New Zealand was not that bad, but the quality of the shot-making and the picking of the gaps made the bowling look worse than it was.
There were no nervous 90’s for Du Plessis, who unfurled his signature lofted on-drive for six over long-on off Jeetan Patel to bring up a well-crafted 100.
It was a lesson in starting slowly, consuming balls and accelerating when the bowling wilted. He hit 14 fours and two sixes, showing a willingness to punish the bad ball when it availed itself with none of Hashim Amla’s self denial.
There was a sense of urgency to South Africa’s batting and with the heavy cloud not lifting, the imperative was to get New Zealand batting as quickly as possible without losing to many wickets with the runs on the board.
New Zealand’s parsimony in the first session prevented that possibility. The accelerator needed to be stepped on and even though their 131-run partnership was compiled over 234 balls, it formed the bulk of the 115 runs scored in the session and the speed in which they came counted.
If there is a slight chink in Du Plessis’ armour, it is his liking for moving outside off and playing the ball to leg. It brought about his downfall off Colin Munro, when he tried to pull one outside off to the leg side.
It resulted in a simple catch for Brendon McCullum at cover.
Elgar’s 86-ball half century did not tell the full story of the strong front and back foot play behind square and the lofted drives in the V, but they rammed home the advantage.
The century may have not been reached and there may be questions regarding Elgar’s approach after Du Plessis’ dismissal, but it will be a long haul for New Zealand.