Dean Elgar's spectacular hundred helped South Africa to 229/4 at stumps on Day 1 of the first Test against New Zealand at Dunedin. The visitors opted to bat first after winning the toss on a rather brown outfield.
Neil Wagner prized out Hashim Amla and JP Duminy in the same over to reduce Proteas to 22/3 after Boult had Stephen Cook plumb in front. Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis then put on a 126 run stand as South Africa slowly but steadily recovered. Elgar raced to his 7th Test hundred after Du Plessis fell for 52 to a Neesham bouncer.
In a welcome sign for the Proteas, Temba Bavuma looked in fine nick as he joined hands with Elgar in an unbeaten partnership of 81 that took them to close of play on Day 1.
Brief Scores: South Africa 229/4 in 90 overs (Elgar 128*, Du Plessis 52, Wagner 2/59)
Here are the talking points from day 1 at Dunedin.
#5 Neil Wagner's double-wicket over
When the Black Caps decided to drop Tim Southee for Neil Wagner, they stamped the fact that Wagner was their go-to man in Tests. The left arm seamer relishes a challenge and is well aware of the conditions in Dunedin.
He was taken off early after opening the bowling to bring on Jeetan Patel. But when he returned he nipped out Hashim Amla with an inswinging delivery that sneaked past his bat to shatter the stumps.
Wagner went on to produce a snorter of a bouncer that Duminy could only fend at three balls later. As South Africa stumbled to 22/3, Wagner had shown why he was selected over Southee.
#4 Hashim Amla's wretched form
Hashim Amla has been in terrible form for the Proteas in Tests. His 154 in the final Test against Sri Lanka was a face saving innings but it was far from convincing. His returns in the ODIs were poor as well although he has managed to get starts.
Today, walking in at no. 3, Amla tried an expansive drive off Wagner only to leave a huge gap between bat and pad that helped the ball sneak through. His defence has been shoddy and the angled bat is causing more problems than it used to.
In swinging conditions, Amla has become susceptible to seam bowlers and the trend is worrying for South Africa who are already coping with the absence of AB de Villiers in Tests. They will be hoping to see the no. 3 back at his best before the end of this series.
#3 Faf du Plessis' terrific knock and lame dismissal
Faf du Plessis walked in with South Africa having their backs against the wall at 22/3. He had seen Wagner dismiss Amla and Duminy in the same over and needed to give Elgar some firm company.
He remained defensive at the start as Elgar pounced on anything loose and wide. His first boundary was a strong sweep shot off Jeetan Patel. He followed that up with another in the next ball. He was fleet-footed against the spinners and smashed Wagner through covers.
A splendid cover drive off Santner helped him to a well-deserved half-century. But Du Plessis got greedy after he was reprieved by the DRS as he pulled a ball from Neesham to Boult in the deep to be dismissed for 52 after a 126 run stand with Elgar.
#2 Bavuma regains some form
Bavuma seemed to be the only concern in the South African top 6 after the Sri Lankan series. The short statured dynamic fielder had his moments in Australia but had not clicked much with the bat to warrant an automatic selection.
If that needed to change, Bavuma needed to get back to his natural style of occupying the crease and then unleashing his classy shots. He seemed to be in his zone as he walked out at Dunedin and played out 15 dots.
He soon drove Boult to the fence before top edging a pull to the fence in the next ball. A couple of powerful shots off Patel showed that Bavuma was here to retain his place in the side. He remained unbeaten on 38 at stumps on Day 1. The middle order batsman will, however, know that he needs a big one to retain the faith of the selectors.
#1 Dean Elgar's gritty knock
Dean Elgar is in the side to show fight at the top of the order. He had a task and a half on hand today as New Zealand seamer's ripped through the South African top order, reducing them to 22/3.
Elgar, however, found some able support from Faf du Plessis and the duo went about the repair job. Elgar looked at his best as he dominated the stand with some crunching drives and booming pull shots.
He did not allow Wagner, the best Kiwi bowler of the day, to settle down as he kept attacking him. A powerful pull off Neesham brought up his 7th Test hundred and the southpaw remained unbeaten on 128 at stumps on Day 1.