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Monday, February 26, 2024

South Africa eye victory in second test after Verreynne century

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Inspired by a magnificent, unbeaten century from rookie wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne, South Africa pulled within six wickets of a series-levelling victory in the second test against New Zealand after dominating day four in Christchurch on Monday.

Since suffering their second-worst test defeat in the opening Christchurch test, South Africa’s turnaround has been little short of extraordinary, with heroes emerging from unexpected places at Hagley Oval.

On Monday, it was Verreynne’s turn to shine as the 24-year-old redhead produced a masterful 136 not out, humbling one of the world’s best attacks on their home wicket to set New Zealand an improbable chase of 426 runs for victory.

“Obviously getting a hundred is special but more importantly (it was) the value that added to the team,” said Verreynne, who had not surpassed 30 in his five previous tests.

“I think me being there allowed KG (Rabada) and Keshav (Maharaj) to sort of come in and play freely and I think the runs that they added at the back end there were really crucial.”

By stumps, New Zealand were still 332 runs short of what would be a world record chase to victory, reduced to 94 for four by a tandem assault of Rabada pace and Maharaj spin.

The hosts’ wafer-thin hopes rest on number three Devon Conway, who was 60 not out, and wicketkeeper Tom Blundell, on one run, holding on for a large chunk of day five.

Rabada had a day to remember, removing both New Zealand openers for the combined cost of one run, after smashing four sixes in a brilliant 47 that demoralised New Zealand’s bowlers.

“There was a message that we should try and be positive,” he said after helping the Proteas to a declared second innings of 354 for nine.

“I was lucky it went my way.”

EXCITING FINISH

New Zealand were in the match at the start of day four when South Africa resumed at 140 for five but, anchored by Verreynne, the Proteas refused to buckle.

The small crowd of New Zealand fans at Hagley Oval might have wished for similar starch from their top order before it crashed for a second successive innings.

Stand-in captain Tom Latham and fellow opener Will Young have managed a total of four runs this test, both falling twice to Rabada.

Young was out for a second-ball duck on Monday, driving straight to the gully, while Latham was caught for one on the leg-side minutes later.

Henry Nicholls managed only seven runs before being bowled by Maharaj.

Conway and Daryl Mitchell (24) resisted for a period but their 56-run partnership was broken by a superb Maharaj delivery that flummoxed Mitchell, angling in toward his pads before nipping back into his off-stump.

New Zealand, who thrashed South Africa by an innings and 276 runs in the opener, must save the match or see their hopes of a maiden series win over the Proteas crushed again.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Black Caps batting coach Luke Ronchi told reporters.

“It’s going to be tough but it’s going to be an exciting finish to a test match.”

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