Tea South Africa 308 and 157 for 3 (Elgar 73*, du Plessis 16*) lead New Zealand 341 by 124 runs
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Dean Elgar resisted New Zealand with a half-century © Getty Images
Dean Elgar continued his tour de force of a Test in Dunedin as he protected South Africa from trouble on the fourth day. He survived two chances and saved himself with the DRS to reach tea on 73, having now spent more than 11 hours at the crease, and alongside stubborn displays from JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis pushed the lead to 124 at a rate that barely exceeded two an over.
With four sessions remaining, and a dodgy forecast for Sunday, it will be difficult for either side to force a result, but if New Zealand had not been so careless during the opening session they could have been in a position to force the issue. JP Duminy was dropped early, Elgar put down on 36 and they made a hash of the DRS – reviewing two that weren’t out and missing one, against Duminy, that would have brought a wicket.
New Zealand thought they had finally shifted Elgar with the last ball before tea when he was given caught behind off Jeetan Patel, but after much rocking and rolling the third umpire Rod Tucker was able to rule it was bat clipping pad and Elgar survived to continue his marathon.
It was Neil Wagner who provided New Zealand both their wickets. He had a significant workload – spells of nine and seven overs – and earned the early scalp of Hashim Amla before striking after lunch to pin Duminy lbw. At that point South Africa’s lead stood at 80 and their slow scoring rate meant that a flurry of wickets would have left them in danger.
However, Elgar could not be removed – although New Zealand had two chances to do so. On 35, James Neesham found his outside edge from round the wicket but BJ Watling could not gather the chance low to his left. It was the second time in the match that Watling had given an Elgar a life; in the first innings he was spilled down the leg side on 36. Then, on 48, a drive was drilled through the hands of substitute fielder Colin de Grandhomme at cover as Elgar went to his fifty from 144 balls.
Kane Williamson put the onus on Wagner, Trent Boult and Patel, not using Mitchell Santner until the 65th over. The left-arm spinner created an opportunity first ball when Elgar flicked firmly into Latham at short leg, but the ball ballooned in front of midwicket. Elgar then played a rare attacking stroke, advancing down the pitch to loft Santner straight, but the ball spinning into the left hander created uncertainty and an outside edge fell just short of slip where Neesham and come up from his stance too quickly.
Du Plessis was in no mood to try and escalate the scoring rate against accurate bowling. He batted on middle off against Wagner, who moved the ball predominantly across the right hander, and also stood well across his crease to Patel who probed away into the footmarks outside off stump.
The resumption was delayed by nearly 40 minutes due to morning drizzle then there was a brief stoppage for bad light (although no stoppages for fire alarms). While playing time can still be caught up with on the fourth day, the light could be an issue during the evening session.
New Zealand bowled well enough to have made more inroads in the morning with both Boult and Wagner putting in lengthy opening spells. Boult should have had rewarded but Duminy, on 6, was given a life when Latham put down a simple chance at first slip. Latham, currently in a barren run with the bat, was in that position because of the injury to Ross Taylor.
The opening ball of the day from Boult hammered into Amla’s gloves, but it was Wagner who found early success, moments before the stoppage for bad light, when Amla fell to a leg-side trap, flicking to midwicket as his lean run in South Africa continued.
Boult then started to work over Duminy, squaring him up with a delivery which brought a strong appeal and a review for caught behind but it had brushed trouser rather than edge. Neesham, part of the appeal from slip, indicated he knew it was leg but the DRS had already been called for. Later on, in Patel’s first over, Duminy would have been lbw had New Zealand reviewed and when they did review a shout in Patel’s following over it showed Kumar Dharmasena had been correct in spotting the inside edge. Back to the DRS drawing board for New Zealand.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo