Dean Elgar goes against the trend in choosing to bat in New Zealand conditions, and then helps bring up a rare away century opening stand for South Africa
South Africa 238 for 3 (Erwee 108, Markram 42, Southee 1-41) vs New Zealand
On a surface that was much less green than the first Test, New Zealand’s five-pronged pace attack did not find the same seam movement they did last week and appeared far less threatening. They stuck to their mostly short-of-a-length strategy and found swing through the air but South Africa’s more cautious and determined strategy served them well. The run-rate hovered under three an over and New Zealand sent down 31 maidens in their 90 overs. Pressure was never far away but South Africa found ways to cope.
Elgar set the tone when he fronted up and survived against Tim Southee, who had several opportunities to snag him. He beat Elgar’s inside edge several times and then found it, in his fourth over, but the edge fell short of first slip. That was the first of three chances New Zealand created for Daryl Mitchell but all of them evaded him.
Erwee started in much quieter fashion. He scored just five runs off the first 25 balls he faced before almost losing his leg stump to an inswinging yorker from Southee. His first convincing shot was a punch through square leg off Kyle Jamieson. It took him until the 16th over to draw level with Elgar in runs terms, on 17, but once he overtook the captain, he grew in confidence. He showed off a series of drives and brought up 50 off Colin de Grandhomme with a shot that went wide of point for four and took South Africa to lunch on 80 without loss. It was only the second time in 11 Tests at this ground that the batting team has gone to lunch without losing a wicket.
The pair became the first visiting duo to share a century stand in the first innings of a Test in New Zealand since Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs in 2004 when Erwee drove Southee past mid-off for four. Though Southee was still swinging it, New Zealand must have wondered where a wicket would come from. Two overs later, Southee bowled Elgar with an inswinger that beat the outside edge and hit off stump, ending South Africa’s first away opening stand of over 100 since Adelaide 2012.
Instead, in what may turn out to be a cruel twist of grooming his replacement, Markram provided a foil while Erwee worked his way to his century. He could have been out on 68, when Matt Henry found the outside edge but the chance fell short of first slip again. Erwee entered the nineties off the 160th ball he faced and spent 28 balls more getting to his century. He brought it up with a pull behind square off Wagner, three balls before tea, and celebrated with a punch in the air and an embrace from Markram, who would have had runs on his mind.
Two balls later, Erwee also played a loose stroke and nicked behind against Henry. New Zealand could have had Temba Bavuma two balls after that when he fended a delivery that took the shoulder of the bat but the chance went between third slip and gully. Next ball, Bavuma edged a delivery he had tried to pull out of playing, and the ball bounced in front of a diving Mitchell at first slip and went for four. Bavuma was on 14 when he edged Jamieson short of second slip but, with Rassie van der Dussen, he went on to take South Africa to the second new ball and the close.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent