Sarel Erwee’s maiden Test ton anchored what was a solid day’s work for the Proteas in the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch.
Sarel Erwee’s maiden Test ton drove South Africa’s much-improved batting display as they finished the first day of the second Test against New Zealand at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on 238/3 on Friday.
When the Proteas lost Aiden Markram (41) and Erwee (108) in the 69th and 70th overs to Neil Wagner (1/50) and Matt Henry (1/65) respectively, the score was on 199, six runs away from the collective 205 of both innings of the first Test.
It also helped that Temba Bavuma (22*), despite a skittish start where his first eight runs were squeezed through the slip cordon, and Rassie van der Dussen (13*) played with a sense of purpose that didn’t allow New Zealand’s bowlers to make further inroads.
However, they had a lot to thank for Erwee’s knock, one that was nerveless in light of the pressure the Proteas were under leading into the game.
If there were any portent of favourable fortune for the visitors, it started when captain Dean Elgar won his first toss since becoming Proteas captain and against local advice, chose to bat first.
The Hagley Oval strip, despite the consistent bounce it offered through the day and how it quickens up as the match progresses, was far less green as compared to the first Test.
There were changes, with Wiaan Mulder coming in for the injured Zubayr Hamza, Lutho Sipamla for Duanne Olivier and Keshav Maharaj for Glenton Stuurman.
That said, Elgar (41) and Erwee showed the necessary application and grit that saw them navigate a tricky first morning and remain unbeaten at lunch at 80/0
They extended their opening stand to 111 in 36 overs before Elgar was castled by Tim Southee (1/41).
That opened up a chance for Markram, who was retained in what could be termed as a last chance saloon considering his poor form.
In the 88-run stand with Erwee, he battled for his 103 balls and eschewed wide off-stump play. However, Wagner suckered him into a drive that was pouched by Daryl Mitchell at first slip with 10 overs remaining before the new ball was taken.
Erwee followed the next over when he feathered Henry to Tom Blundell, but his mistake didn’t take the gloss off a knock that was a year and a bit in the making.
He’s been a regular tourist without getting an opportunity, something Keegan Petersen’s absence opened up for him.
Significantly, he ensured New Zealand’s bowlers bowled to his strengths, with his driving and cutting being top-class.
He may have played the bulk of his cricket in Durban where the Kingsmead pitch has slowed down appreciably over the years, but was adept with the hook and pull.
He brought up his ton with a pull shot off Wagner despite the trap that was set for him and hit 14 fours in his brilliant knock.
His departure saw Van der Dussen and Bavuma having to bat out the last 20 overs, which they did so with differing tactics.
Van der Dussen’s pads and inside edge were attacked consistently and also survived a chance on seven when he was dropped by Will Young at midwicket off Henry.
Bavuma also survived a close leg-before shout off Southee that was unsuccessfully reviewed, but they saw out the day to give the visitors a fighting chance.
Scores in brief:
SA: 238/3 (Sarel Erwee 108, Aiden Markram 42, Dean Elgar 41, Tim Southee 1/41, Neil Wagner 1/50, Matt Henry 1/65)