NZ v SA, 1st Test: Matt Henry’s 7/23 helps New Zealand take control on opening day

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Career-best figures of 7/23 from unheralded paceman Matt Henry on return to Test cricket after eight months helped New Zealand dominate the opening day of the first Test against South Africa here on Thursday.

Henry, who came into the side because Trent Boult was on paternity leave, tore through the South African batting line-up with ease as he picked up the equal third-best Test figures by a New Zealand bowler as the Proteas were dismissed for just 95 at Hagley Oval.

His figures of 15-7-23-7 were the joint third-best test figures ever by a New Zealander after Ajaz Patel’s 10/119 (v India at Wankhede in 2021), and Richard Hadlee’s 9/63 (v Australia at Brisbane in 1985) and equal with Hadlee’s 7/23 against India at Wellington in 1976.

A cautious New Zealand had reached 116/3 by stumps to lead by 21 — with Henry Nicholls (37*) and nightwatchman Neil Wagner (2*) at the crease — and in a strong position to start the two-match Test series in style.

New Zealand pacers Henry, Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson extracted considerable movement in the air and bounce off the pitch, hitting a good line and length repeatedly, putting South Africa under pressure. They made full use of the conditions after stand-in skipper Tom Latham won the toss and elected to field.

But the day belonged to Henry, who claimed his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket, helping the hosts dismiss South Africa for their lowest-ever score in Tests.

Henry started the carnage when he had South Africa skipper Dean Elgar playing a loose shot to a fullish delivery pitched on and around off-stump. Elgar went for a drive but could manage only a thick-edge that Tim Southee pocketed with an excellent catch at third slip, diving to his left.

He went on to dismiss Aiden Markram (15) and Rassie van der Dussen (8) as South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals.

Jamieson chipped in with the wicket of Sarel Erwee (10), while Southee claimed of the innings — Temba Bavuma for seven. Henry returned to dismiss Kagiso Rabada and Glenton Stuurman off successive deliveries but missed the hat-trick with a wayward delivery that went for four byes.

Zubayr Hamza top-scored for South Africa with 25 before he fell to Henry.

South Africa needed to make early inroads with the new ball, but Kagiso Rabada (0/34) and Glenton Stuurman (0/19) were unable to make any impression on the New Zealand openers.

Tall paceman Marco Jansen (1/11) made the breakthrough when he dismissed Will Young for eight and Duanne Olivier (2/36) bowled stand-in Kiwi skipper Tom Latham (15) shortly after to reduce the hosts to 36/2.

But Conway and Nicholls steadied the show, with the former falling late in the day to Olivier for a well-compiled 36 as the hosts took the honours on an opening day.

Brief scores:

South Africa 95 all out in 49.2 overs (Zubayr Hamza 25; Matt Henry 7/23) v New Zealand 116/3 in 39 overs (Devon Conway 36, Henry Nicholls 37 not out; Marco Jansen 1/11).

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