OPINION: In close on three decades of reporting on New
Zealand cricket, last night's performance was the worst these
eyes have witnessed.
There have been sessions, or partial sessions, down the years
for which the eyes needed to be averted, even as recently as
But this was a full six and a half hours in which everything
went wrong. After the batting shambles, the bowling wasn't
good enough, some of the fielding schoolboyish, and that's
being unkind to the youngsters.
Certainly, South Africa's formidably strong, and
complementary, quick bowlers, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander
and Morne Morkel, can, and have, made life difficult for the
best batting lineups.
In rolling New Zealand for their third worst test total, and
the lowest in the last 38 years of test cricket, they turned
the visitors' batting to spinach.
Philander, in particular, was unquestionably outstanding.
Five wickets in your first 25 balls at a personal cost of
four runs is exceptional in anyone's book. Steyn and Morkel
did their part.
But New Zealand's batting was collectively wretched.
Inability to cover the area on and around their off stump
helped make life easier for the bowlers.
No one had the ability or mental strength to hunker down and
occupy the crease. They simply never got a toehold on the
game in the morning session.
Once the slide began, there was no one capable of halting the
New Zealand managed a total of five fours in the innings.
Later in the day, Doug Bracewell conceded 13 on his own as
South Africa surged to a 200-plus lead by stumps on day one.
South African officials were fretting over whether New
Zealand would be truly competitive, thinking in financial
return terms over the scheduled last two days of the match.
Their worst fears were realised.
It was a truly depressing day, and with all the national
anger over New Zealand Cricket's handling of the dumping of
former captain Ross Taylor, it came at precisely the worst
possible time. That cannot be overstated, from the
perspective of the team's management and the national
New Zealand's players needed to present a united front, to
stand firm and fight to prove a point. Instead they melted
away, like ice cream on a summer's day.
Newlands is among the world's premier grounds. The setting is
superb, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. A near full house
But before the end of the day they'd tuned out. They'd hoped
for a contest, and got a rout, even if their side was doing
the damage. Even that can only sustain interest for so long.
"What have YOU done today?" a spectator shouted at the New
Zealand players as they sheepishly headed for the bus after
- by David Leggat In Cape Town