The ongoing series between hosts New Zealand and South Africa has been affected by the rain, but whenever there is some play, the quality of cricket that has been played is extraordinary. It was evident from Tom Latham’s brilliance to dismiss South African skipper Faf du Plessis in the first session of day 2 of the third Test.
After missing out a large portion of play on day 1, the play started 30 minutes early on day 2 and Du Plessis notched up his 12th Test fifty. When he was batting on 53, he premeditated a paddle sweep to a Mitchell Santner delivery that pitched back of a length outside the off stump. The batsman was playing the shot against the spin and he failed to go to the pitch of the ball.
Du Plessis managed to get the face of the bat to the ball as he tried to guide the ball to the fine-leg boundary. Instead, he was left awestruck by what followed the shot. When he was lining up to paddle sweep the ball, the short-leg fielder, Tom Latham, anticipated the move and started moving to his right to stop the ball. With the ball taking off in the air after hitting the bat and Latham, who was already to his right, stuck his hand out and managed to catch the ball.
The fielder had just 0.35 seconds to react since the ball hit the bat and Latham did a fantastic job to pluck it mid-way in the air much to the surprise of Du Plessis. Commentator Ian Smith described it as the best short leg catch he has ever seen. “It is hard to recall anything similar. Most of the amazing catches in that position involve incredible reaction time to shots hit firmly towards the fielder,” he added.
This was not the only instance Latham was involved in a fielding masterclass on day 2 as he took yet another stunner when he did well to poach a catch low to his right at second slip to remove Vernon Philander off the bowling of Matt Henry, who picked up four wickets in Proteas’ first innings. His efforts in the field certainly gave Latham, who scored just 24 runs in his first 3 innings, a lot of confidence as he is batting on 42 at the end of day’s play.
Resuming at 123 for four after a rain-shortened first day, South Africa were dismissed for 314. Wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock top-scored for the visitors by scoring 90 while Henry was the pick of the Kiwi bowlers with four wickets while Neil Wagner accounted for 3. In reply, the hosts ended day 2 with the scorecard reading 67/0.