The South Africa test team displayed a day of thorough domination, something they haven’t enjoyed for a few months. Their top four batsmen - Quinton de Kock, Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy - all struck fifties as the hosts finished at 283 for 3 after they had been put into bat by Kane Williamson at Supersport Park on Saturday.
South Africa’s newest opening combination, de Kock and Cook, laid the groundwork for the middle order to capitalise by adding 133, South Africa’s best first-wicket partnership since 2014. Amla and Duminy were initially circumspect after the tea break, but runs flowed as the final session wore on. In between a number of delectable boundaries, which included an upper cut over third man for six, Amla brought up his fourth successive fifty-plus score in Centurion.
At a time when batting seemed easiest, however, left-arm seamer Neil Wagner brought one back in sharply from around the wicket and kissed Amla’s outside edge. It required such a delivery to leave Amla in disbelief.
The differences from Durban were stark when play had begun under a blue Centurion sky. The absence of cloud cover and the slower nature of the pitch meant South Africa’s openers were comfortable off the back foot as long as they did not waft at inviting lengths.
In the first session, they thrived after weathering a testing spell from Southee and Boult, both of whom hit exemplary lengths.
After being watchful during the first hour, de Kock - opening because Dean Elgar had sprained his ankle while training on the eve of the Test - and Cook capitalised in the second.
As de Kock got bolder and Cook more resolute, regular offerings of width coupled with pick-off-the-pads deliveries helped them score boundaries on both sides of the wicket. South Africa were 100 for 0 at lunch.
After bringing up his half-century, Cook seemed to lose his discipline in leaving deliveries he did not need to play. A couple of loose drives, bat away from the body and feet rooted in the crease, whistled through cover but another such shot ended his innings.
A thick skew off the outside half carried low to Kane Williamson at gully, and New Zealand had an opening. Until Amla closed it again. Stumps Day One, Brief Scores: South Africa 283/3 (88 overs) (de Kock 82, Duminy 67 n.o., Amla 58, Cook 56; Wagner 2/51) vs New Zealand