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The Christchurch Press South Africa v New Zealand (3rd Test)
The Christchurch Press - 18-22 March 1999

Day 1: Steady Gary helps heroic Harry

Geoff Longley in Wellington

Gary Stead's gritty half century for New Zealand against South Africa was a triumph for the common cricketer, said national selection panel convener Ross Dykes.

Stead, plucked from relative provincial obscurity for an injured Craig McMillan, made a fighting 68 in only his second test innings yesterday to give a shaky New Zealand innings some substance.

He shared a 145-run fifth-wicket stand with fellow Cantabrian Chris Harris as the Black Caps reached 211 for six at stumps.

Harris shook off a stomach upset, which had him retching on the pitch near the end of the day, to finish on 66 not out.

Dykes described Stead as ``a model for all youngsters''.

``Gary gives his all for the province and showed what can be achieved.''

He said Stead played within his limitations and showed he had the temperament to make the adjustment from first-class to international level.

``We hoped that would be the case when we picked him, but it's not until players are actually in the situation that we know how they will react.''

Dykes felt the step up to test level was more mental than physical.

Stead, who batted 212 minutes and hit 10 fours in his innings, said he felt a lot of his innings had been a battle.

``I was satisfied with the innings, but not happy being dismissed just before stumps because we lost a possible advantage with two wickets going down. But I felt I battled through a lot of the day. Every run was like a little gem.''

Stead said he felt as though his feet were in concrete at times as he sought to combat the swinging ball and the ever-demanding South African pace attack.

``The ball was moving in the air, but there was not a lot of movement in the pitch. The pace of the wicket seemed to pick up a bit as the day wore on when it got baked by the sun.''

Stead said he and Harris geed each other along as they sought to rescue the Black Caps from a perilous position at 58 for four.

Stead has had something of a love affair with the Basin Reserve of late. The Canterbury captain made a match-winning 84 in the Shell Cup final there last month, followed by 86 in a Shell Trophy game.

The 27-year-old made his first-class debut as a promising leg spin bowler for a New Zealand XI against England in 1991-92. He has noted the rise in standard between provincial and international standard.

``There are a lot less free balls at test level. The bowlers are always at you.''

Stead felt there was also an increased intensity in the South African attitude when he was batting, even compared to his debut test in Christchurch, where he made an encouraging 27.

``The odd word was said. They were getting frustrated with us hanging around. Some of it was in Afrikaans, which has a Dutch base and I know a bit of Dutch, having played in Holland. But I don't mind, you expect that sort of thing. It just spurs you on.''

Day 2: Bad decision rubs salt in New Zealand wound

Television technology confused rather than cleared a contentious catching issue which went against New Zealand in the third cricket test against South Africa at the Basin Reserve.

Although South Africa dominated yet another day in this BNZ series, the major incident was the not out given by third umpire, Brent Bowden for a catch behind the wicket off opener Gary Kirsten.

Before the Proteas began to plunder runs during the afternoon, taking South Africa to 235 for two by stumps from 75 overs, already ahead of New Zealand's inadequate 222, Bowden was asked to rule on a catch edged by Kirsten. The ball, to most in the ground, carried to first slip Chris Harris, bounced up off his hands and was caught by a diving second slip Bryan Young.

Bowden gave Kirsten, on 11, the green light to remain because he decided that six television replays were inconclusive on whether the ball went to ground before being picked up by Harris.

``In the heat of battle you can't go on gut instinct or player emotion. The technology was not good or clear enough to make a 100 per cent decision,''said Bowden after stumps.

TVNZ does not have extra slow-motion cameras at test matches this season for economic reasons, but uses them at the one-day internationals.

When Bowden - the centre of attention in the past with his extrovert style on the field - could not decide, Kirsten gained an undeserved reprieve early in South Africa's innings. He capitalised to some extent by reaching 40 before playing on to Shayne O'Connor, Simon Doull being the luckless bowler.

New Zealand has already had enough trouble taking wickets in this series - the last thing it needed was technology to prevent a legitimate one.

While it stopped an early Black Caps breakthrough, the remainder of the day continued in familiar fashion as the Proteas piled on a heap of runs to approach another match-winning position.

Herschelle Gibbs became the first South African batsman to make successive centuries against New Zealand, only this time it came two hours quicker than in Christchurch, where he broke the three-figure barrier for the first time.

He finished unbeaten on 115 from 226 balls with 16 fours, having shared an unbroken third-wicket stand worth 130 at almost a run a minute pace with the similarly stylish Daryll Cullinan.

The New Zealand bowlers could not match the exacting line of their South African counterparts, which contributed to the home team's middle and lower order folding well short of the 300-run mark, which would have ensured some respectability.

New Zealand, which resumed at 211 for six, added only another 11 runs in 12.3 overs as Shaun Pollock produced a devastating spell, which reaped four wickets for one run in 20 balls. It lifted Pollock to his ninth five-wicket test bag, equal with father Peter, who also took a five-wicket bag at the ground in 1963-64.

Pollock, relishing bowling downwind in the absence of usual breeze bowler Allan Donald, continued his precision line to pip Steve Elworthy for the five wicket-honour.

The Black Caps' last six wickets fell for a pitiful 19 runs and only the 145-run stand between Chris Harris and Gary Stead stood between it and complete ignominy. South Africa is now bent on building a lead of around 300 today.

Of the New Zealand bowlers, Daniel Vettori is getting the ball to turn but struggling for consistency, while Doull was the pick of the pace men before the shine and swing went from the new ball.

Day 4: New Zealand on verge of series defeat

What has appeared inevitable since the first day of the first cricket test between New Zealand and South Africa will become reality, barring miracles, on the last day of the final match at the Basin Reserve today.

New Zealand will succumb to South Africa and lose the three-test series, 1-0, after being saved firstly by the wicket in Auckland, then the weather in Christchurch.

The only matter for debate is the final losing margin, by an innings or whether the Proteas will be required to achieve a token target.

New Zealand resumes today at 217 for seven, still 59 runs away from making South Africa bat again.

New Zealand was probably saved from the match finishing yesterday by the end of daylight saving - fading light just after 5.30pm forcing the players from the field.

Now there appears to be no more trap doors for the home side to escape through. The weather is settled, South Africa was unlikely to be served by a waitress bearing poisoned food overnight, and the Kiwis have just their lower order left to fight the second new ball and a refreshed Proteas' pace attack.

When the loss comes, it will tarnish a rosy record of New Zealand sides at home of late - they have won five of the last nine tests.

However, in this series an embattled New Zealand side has been outplayed. The Proteas possess better test-tuned batsmen and a more potent pace bowling attack and gave another demonstration of the latter yesterday.

Their quick bowlers, even without the injured Allan Donald, consistently wring more life out of the pitches, not only being sharper of pace, but often better of line.

Donald's replacement Steve Elworthy, himself replacing another injured player, David Terbrugge, before the tour began, captured four wickets yesterday to demonstrate the depth and quality of South Africa's pace-bowling resources.

Shaun Pollock, who inflicted mortal damage in the first innings, provided a nasty, rearing delivery to remove Bryan Young yesterday. Then when Elworthy had Roger Twose and Matthew Horne dismissed in the space of four balls, any semblance of saving the game was gone with the Black Caps 35 for three within the first hour.

South Africa had declared at its overnight score 276 ahead.

It should have been four wickets in the session with Nathan Astle being dropped three times.

Gary Stead and Astle made some headway, adding 65 together before Elworthy struck again.

Astle reached 62 from 142 balls with nine fours.

Chris Harris soldiered away determinedly with Astle and Adam Parore, before Proteas spinner Paul Adams made his wicket-taking entrance. His first 14 overs failed to produce a victim, and he then took two wickets in six balls.

Source: The Christchurch Press
Editorial comments can be sent to The Christchurch Press at press@press.co.nz