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Dunedin Test finely poised heading into final day

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Half-centuries from Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis allowed South Africa to grind themselves into a position of nominal control on the fourth day of the first Test against New Zealand at the University Oval.

The pair were forced to battle in frigid conditions on a wearing wicket that made run-scoring extremely difficult, and their 80-run stand for the fourth wicket helped South Africa close the day on 224 for six, giving them a lead of 191 runs. 

The pedestrian scoring rate on the day, which yielded 186 runs from 84 overs, was largely due to the slow pace of the wicket as well as the unpredictable bounce.

Elgar was at the crease for 87 overs for his 89, which took his match aggregate to 229 runs. This made him the first Proteas opener to score more than 200 runs in a Test since Graeme Smith struck a double-hundred against Pakistan in Dubai in November 2013.

Meanwhile, Du Plessis was equally patient as he batted through to stumps on 56 from 155 deliveries, ensuring that the Proteas still have control over how the last day may play out.

Any target over 200 is likely to prove difficult to chase, particularly if New Zealand have to score at four or more per over to do so. With rain forecast at various points on day five, judging the state of the game and deciding on tactics could be challenging for both sides.

Play on day four was delayed by around 40 minutes by early morning rain and bad light, and once play got underway, the difficulty of the day ahead was highlighted by the first two balls from Trent Boult.

The first one jumped up off a length to rap Hashim Amla on the glove, while the second delivery shot through at ankle height.

Amla (24) fell in the fourth over of the day when he failed to account for the slowness of the pitch and chipped a catch to midwicket off the bowling of Neil Wagner.

New Zealand had opportunities to put South Africa under serious pressure thereafter, but made some poor calls with the Decision Review System and also dropped several catches.

JP Duminy was dropped on 6 and should have been out lbw to Jeetan Patel on 20, while Elgar was dropped on 35 and 48.

As a result the pair were able to add 74 for the third wicket before Duminy’s luck ran out and he was trapped lbw by Wagner for 39.

Elgar and Du Plessis dug in for their partnership, scoring at just two runs per over, and were only separated when a decision was made to increase the scoring rate.

New Zealand had been forced to take the new ball with their spinners due to the bad light, and Elgar, in sight of a second century in the match, unselfishly looked for quick runs when he took on Jeetan Patel and was caught at wide long-off.

Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock fell to Mitchell Santner and Patel respectively, making it the fourth time in four innings that Patel has dismissed the wicketkeeper-batsman, before Philander accompanied Du Plessis to the close of play.

That was brought about prematurely due to bad light, and so play will resume at 10:40am local time (11:40pm tonight SA time), weather permitting.