Maharaj’s career-best gives South Africa series lead

Keshav Maharaj’s career-best figures of 6-40 helped South Africa win the second Test in Wellington in just three days and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. Morne Morkel’s initial burst and Maharaj’s heroics in the second and final session on Saturday (March 18) helped South Africa bowl New Zealand out for just 171 in their second innings. Even though the visitors lost their openers in the chase, the target of 81 hardly bothered them.

After getting rid of Morkel early in the day to end a frustrating last-wicket stand, New Zealand’s hopes of putting up a better batting display suffered a blow very early with Tom Latham departing cheaply once again. Morkel got one to leave him a touch and the batsman poked at it to the slip cordon. A couple of overs later, New Zealand were dealt a huge blow with skipper Kane Williamson experiencing a rare twin failure. Morkel was the wrecker-in-chief yet again as he got one to straighten after pitching to take the New Zealand captain’s outside edge.

Jeet Raval, at the other end, looked comfortable though and he had Neil Broom for company to bat through the first session without any further damage. Broom, who made a duck in the first innings, survived a few nervy moments before picking himself up with some boundaries. New Zealand would have dearly hoped for a turnaround in the post-lunch session, something similar to what they did on the first day but Quinton de Kock squashed such hopes with an outstanding catch to send Broom back for 20.

South Africa peppered new batsman Henry Nicholls with short balls and unlike Raval, who dealt them in boundaries, the first-innings centurion seemed to be rattled by the ploy. Maharaj capitalised and got rid of him as the left-hander inside-edged one on to his stumps. Faf du Plessis then pulled out a one-handed stunner at short midwicket in the same over to send James Neesham back as the hosts lost half their side before even erasing the deficit.

Raval fought his way to a half-century and got a couple of reprieves with JP Duminy dropping him at gully and de Kock missing a stumping opportunity. The onus was on him to try and set a competitive total for South Africa to chase. He had BJ Watling at the other end, who looked composed out in the middle and the pair was the home side’s last hope. But that is when Maharaj spun a web and kept chipping away with wickets. He first got Raval stumped for 80 and then bowled a beauty to Colin de Grandhomme to hit the off stump.

The left-arm spinner completed a five-wicket haul when Tim Southee miscued one to be caught by JP Duminy. As a helpless Watling watched from the other end, Kagiso Rabada bowled one short to Jeetan Patel that was gloved to the keeper. With a lead of just 80 and his side nine down, Watling attempted to take on Maharaj but hit the ball straight to long off to be dismissed for an 83-ball 29.

Chasing only 81, South Africa attempted to finish the job before stumps. Stephen Cook, who was looking for some runs, got going in the very first over and then went on to survive a desperate review from Williamson in the second over bowled by de Grandhomme. Southee got his man though as Cook edged one to the slip cordon yet again. The visitors went into a shell over the next five overs but when play was extended to give them a crack at completing the formalities, Hashim Amla began to open up. Wagner got rid of Dean Elgar with a well directed short ball which was top-edged by the batsman but Amla kept finding the fence at regular intervals to guide his side home.

Brief scores: New Zealand 268 (Henry Nicholls 118; JP Duminy 4-47) & 171 (Jeet Raval 80; Keshav Maharaj 6-40) lost to South Africa 359 (Quinton de Kock 91; Colin de Grandhomme 3-52) & 83/2 (Hashim Amla 38*; Tim Southee 1-17) by 8 wickets.


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