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Philander leads Proteas fightback on Day 2 of First Test

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Vernon Philander put himself in line for yet another five-wicket haul as South Africa fought back impressively on the second day of the first Test against New Zealand at Dunedin on Thursday. The Black Caps finished the day on 243/9 for an overall lead of 5 runs and, bearing in mind that their No. 11 batsman, Chris Martin, has absolute no pretentions in this discipline at all, the Proteas should not have to face any substantial deficit. It will boil down to their batsmen learning the right lessons from their poor performance in the first innings and the bowlers then taking advantage of New Zealand having to bat on the last innings.

Philander finished the day with figures of 4/50 in 17 overs and, with the new ball just six overs old, he must fancy his chances of getting a fifth. He has matched the figures of Chris Martin who finished with 4/56 in 18 overs for the Black Caps. Philander has now taken 34 wickets in four-and-a-half Test matches against three different opponents at an average of 13.

It would be wrong, however, to give Philander all the credit for the Proteas' fightback. It was a genuine all-round performance by the entire bowling unit. Morne Morkel produced a spell of extreme aggression after lunch to put the New Zealanders quite literally back on their heels and captured two important top-order wickets in Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor.

Dale Steyn produced the delivery of the day to bowl Doug Bracewell – pitching middle and leg and hitting middle and off – while Imran Tahir and Jacques Kallis picked up important wickets when New Zealand were threatening to get on top.

The bowlers also did well with the bat when the Proteas resumed their first innings. It has been a long time since the last four have contributed 54 runs between them as was the case here and it should have been more. Philander was unlucky to be caught off a full-blooded cut while Imran contributed the second unnecessary run out of the innings.

Philander's batting contribution cannot be underestimated. Had he fallen cheaply on the first day New Zealand could have had the Proteas all out by the close of play and come out to bat fresh on the second morning. Instead they were kept in the field for a frustrating 10 overs on the second morning. Philander's innings of 22 was only one shy of his career best against Australia and contributed significantly to a partnership of 35 with Jacques Rudolph who became the third half-centurion of the innings.

There is little doubt that Philander is going to grow into a useful lower order all-rounder as his Test career unfolds.

The New Zealand innings had a similar pattern to the South African one with three players reaching 40 but nobody going on to a match-influencing contribution. Brendon McCullum made a patient 48 before falling caught on bowled to Imran Tahir. The one-day skipper came out to bat at no.3 at the fall of Rob Nicol's wicket and shared in a useful stand of 65 with Ross Taylor. Taylor himself made 44 before being the fourth man to be dismissed, caught behind off Morkel.

Kane Williamson contributed just 11 to the Kiwi cause and it was useful partnership worth 53 between Daniel Vettori (46) and on debut keeper Kruger van Wyk (36) that rescued the New Zealand innings. Vettori fell caught and bowled to Kallis, but that did not stop the Black Caps with Doug Bracewell showing that he could also chip in with the bat, contributing 25 to the Kiwi cause.

However with nos. 10 and 11, Trent Boult and Chris Martin, being the two overnight batsmen, the Proteas will fancy their chances to be back batting early on day 3 and will look to their top order batsmen to make a big score to put themselves in the driver's seat.

The match is well advanced over two days and day three is going to be moving day in the sides' fortunes one way or the other.


New Zealand: M Guptill, B McCullum, R Nicol, R Taylor, K Williamson, K van Wyk, D Vettori, T Southee, T Boult, D Bracewell, C Martin.

South Africa: G Smith, A Petersen, H Amla, J Kallis, AB de Villiers, J Rudolph, M Boucher, D Steyn, V Philander, I Tahir, M Morkel.

Mini Scorecard:

South Africa 1st Innings 238 all out (68.2 overs, 3.48rpo)
H Amla 62 (102) C Martin 4-56
G Smith 53 (74) D Bracewell 2-52

New Zealand 1st Innings 243/9 (86 overs, 2.82rpo)
B McCullum 48 (102) V Philander 4-50
D Vettori 46 (78) M Morkel 2-52