Cricket: South Africa in control at lunch

South Africa's batsmen were poised to cash in, but New Zealand had no luck in the opening session of the second test at St George's Park last night.

At lunch, the home side, having won the toss, was 99 for one off 27 overs. New Zealand ideally wanted a second wicket or more in the first session, but at least it was an even contest, albeit threatening to drift away from the touring side, but in sharp contrast to the first two hours at Cape Town last week. So step up Doug Bracewell.

With the first ball of his second over, the forthright seamer struck South African captain Graeme Smith a fierce blow on his helmet, behind the right ear.

Smith, who had turned his head away from the lifter, took a couple of minutes to recover, squatting on his haunches as he regathered his wits.

Throughout the session Smith was clearly not his usual assertive self and was fortunate to get to lunch on 40.

Although Smith chose to bat, New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum confirmed he would have fielded first. Nightmare visions of his batsmen being put under the hammer again by South Africa's top class quicks might have flashed through his mind.

But there was also a practical reason New Zealand would have opted to field. There was a breeze from the south west, usually regarded as a bat-first, drying breeze.

But New Zealand left-armer Trent Boult relishes a breeze to help his inswing to the righthanders, and he locked on to a tidy line from the start of the day.

Alviro Petersen, century-maker in Cape Town, looked pretty secure, unfurling one superb off drive from Bracewell which rocketed to the boundary.

However, he departed to the final ball of the 10th over. Petersen tried to hook Bracewell from outside his off stump and the ball flew straight to Jeetan Patel running in at fine leg.

Neil Wagner, recalled for his third test, was unlucky, three times Smith edging wide of the slips to the fence. Meanwhile, New Zealand will be boosted by the services of its best batsman when it faces England next month, after former skipper Ross Taylor yesterday announced his intention to return to cricket.

Taylor confirmed the end to his self-imposed exile when he wrote on Twitter he would be back for Central Districts in its Plunket Shield match against Canterbury, on January 24.

He then said he would make himself available for selection for the series against the touring England side, beginning with the first twenty/20 international in Auckland on February 9.