Nicholls blazes to century as New Zealand eye Test win vs South Africa

Henry Nicholls smashed his eighth Test century, while wicketkeeper-batter Tom Blundell hit a patient 96 as New Zealand took control of the opening Test against South Africa on Day 2, scoring a mammoth 482 in reply to the visitors’ first innings total of 95 at the Hagley Oval here on Friday.

The Proteas were staring at a massive defeat after being reduced to 34/3 at stumps on Day 2 in the second innings, with the Tom Latham-led Blackcaps still leading by 353 runs going into Day 3.

After leaving South Africa in a shambles, dismissing them for 95 in the first innings on Day 1, New Zealand finished their innings on 482 all out, taking a massive 387-run lead.

Starting the day at an overnight score of 116/3, Nicholls and night-watchman Neil Wagner (49) continued to pile on the Proteas’ misery. Wagner took the attack to Kagiso Rabada in the second over of the day, smashing the South African pace bowler for three consecutive boundaries.

Wagner brought up the 50-run stand in style with a maximum off Glenton Stuurman and dished out the same treatment to the debutant a few overs later. However, Wagner fell just one run short of a second Test half-century as he picked out the deep square leg with the flick.

Daryl Mitchell joined Nicholls and took the hosts to lunch at 235/4, adding 119 runs at nearly 4.5 runs an over. The Proteas struck through Stuurman, who dismissed Mitchell (16) to pick up his maiden Test wicket. Nicholls (105 off 163 balls) reached his eighth Test ton but couldn’t make it a big one, with Duanne Olivier drawing the outside edge to second slip.

Colin de Grandhomme, making his maiden Test appearance since the World Test Championship final in June last year, counterattacked after the two quick dismissals. With Tom Blundell firm at the crease, de Grandhomme smashed a 42-ball 45, which included five fours and a maximum with the part-time spin of Aiden Markram bringing his downfall.

New Zealand bettered their first session, scoring 121 runs in their second as they headed into tea at 356/7 with a lead of over 250. The hosts lost Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee after the break. Between the two wickets, Blundell got to his half century and was kept company by Matt Henry. Having already stamped his authority with a seven-wicket haul in the first innings, Henry showed what he was capable of with the bat as smashed the bowlers to all parts.

With Blundell closing in on a hundred, Henry curbed his game but managed to get to a fifty of his own. Blundell, however, fell four runs short of a century as South African skipper Dean Elgar successfully reviewed a caught behind. New Zealand finished their innings on 482.

New Zealand then picked up three wickets before the close of play to torment South Africa further. Sarel Erwee was sent back for a duck before Henry scalped Elgar for the second time in the match. Markram’s wicket saw the Proteas reduced to 4/3 before Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen ensured that South Africa don’t suffer any more damage, taking the side to 34/3 at stumps.

Brief scores: South Africa 95 and 34/3 vs New Zealand 482 (Devon Conway 36, Henry Nicholls 105, Neil Wagner 49, Tom Blundell 96, Colin de Grandhomme 45, Matt Henry 58 not out; Duanne Olivier 3/100). New Zealand lead by 353 runs.

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