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 today.
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.
Today, it was Verreynne’s turn to shine as he produced a masterful knock of 136 not out, humbling one of the world’s top seam attacks on a sunny day 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 their target, 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 all but broke the back of New Zealand’s attack.
“There was a message that we should try and be positive,” he said of the lower order batting which helped the Proteas to a declared second innings of 354 for nine.
“I was lucky it went my way.” It was a tough afternoon for New Zealand, who were still in the match at the start of day four when South Africa resumed at 140 for five.
After thrashing South Africa by an innings and 276 runs in the first test, New Zealand must save the match or see their hopes of a maiden series win over the Proteas crushed again.