SOUTH Africa’s new fast bowling find, Vernon Philander, has taken four wickets to choke any hopes New Zealand’s cricketers had of a reasonable first innings lead in the opening Test match.
The hosts reached 9-243 to take a slim five-run lead over South Africa, who were dismissed for 238 early on Thursday, the second day of the match at Dunedin’s University Oval.
On Friday Trent Boult on eight and Chris Martin, yet to score, will resume New Zealand’s innings.
Philander took two wickets in three balls after South Africa took the new ball six overs before the end of play – to go with his two earlier wickets earlier in the day, and he matched New Zealand’s Chris Martin’s four-wicket effort.
Philander managed to get the ball to jag off the pitch at pace, and none of the New Zealanders looked comfortable against him.
The 27-year-old now has 34 wickets from his first five Test matches, at a miserly average of 13.15 runs per wicket.
New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum, who top scored with 48, said he found Philander, who was moving the ball off the seam, incredibly difficult to face.
But despite losing wickets regularly through the day, McCullum said New Zealand, ranked eighth in the world, were reasonably happy to have parity after two days with the team ranked second.
He admitted he and skipper Ross Taylor, who made 44, had played loose shots to be dismissed, which was disappointing.
But the bowling was challenging all day, he said.
New Zealand would have to play good cricket to win the match, he said.
“We’d like to be further in front, but such is life.”
The only other batsmen to make an impression were Daniel Vettori, 46, and debutant Kruger van Wyk, playing against his country of birth, who made a gritty 36.
South Africa’s bounce bowler Morne Morkel, who took 2-52, described Philander as a “freak” with unbelievable consistency.
Van Wyk, brought in as a late replacement for BJ Watling, made 36 and would have wanted to end the day still at the crease and New Zealand just six down, but became Philander’s first victim with the second new ball.
Southee then went, caught at first slip of his second ball, and then Dale Steyn clean bowled Doug Bracewell for 25 for his first wicket of the match.
The last time the two sides met in Tests, in South Africa in 2007, Steyn was the chief destroyer with two 10-wicket bags in the two Tests.