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Rabada, Verreynne put South Africa in pole position


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Kagiso Rabada put on an impressive all-round show with both the bat and ball while Kyle Verreynne composed his maiden Test hundred as South Africa edged closer to levelling the two-match Test series versus New Zealand at Hagley Oval. The hosts were struggling at 94/4, still needing 332 for an unlikely win at the close of play on the penultimate day.

After South Africa had declared at 354 for 9, Rabada ripped through the cream of the top order to leave New Zealand in early trouble. He got Will Young to drive at a fuller length ball in the very first over, with Temba Bavuma grabbing the catch at gully. New Zealand soon slid to 7 for 2 when Rabada dismissed Tom Latham. To make matters worse for the hosts, Keshav Maharaj got one to grip and turn sharply to castle Henry Nicholls.

South Africa could have been four down but the fielder stationed at backward square leg fluffed a chance to give Devon Conway a reprieve off Rabada. The southpaw used the reprieve, and in the company of Daryl Mitchell stonewalled South Africa for a while. In between, Mitchell showcased his hitting prowess by skipping down the track to crack a couple of sixes off Maharaj. Conway too played the occasional shot - pull and drive - but the duo was largely circumspect.

Just when the pair seemed set to take the home side to stumps, Maharaj struck again by cleaning up Mitchell with a delivery that drifted and turned just enough to shatter the timber. Conway and Tom Blundell then played the remaining overs to ensure New Zealand wouldn't lose another wicket for the day.

South Africa's commanding position was built on the back of Verreynne's enterprising, unbeaten 135. When day 4 commenced, New Zealand's pace bowlers - Southee, Henry, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner - were intent on banging it short. However, with the conditions turning out to be decent for batting, Verreynne and Wiaan Mulder employed the pull shot to good effect.

After losing his batting partner, Mulder, Verreynne constructed another useful alliance of 27 with Marco Jansen. South Africa then hit top gear in the second session with Rabada showcasing his pyrotechnics. He took a heavy toll off Tim Southee and finished with a 34-ball 47. When he holed out to the fielder positioned at long-on, the damage had already been done, with South Africa leading by over 350 runs.

After his dismissal, Verreynne reached his three-figure mark with a whip off Matt Henry. The hallmark of his innings was the way he laid the cut and pull to put the pressure on New Zealand's bowlers. Eventually, with New Zealand's bowlers peppering the last man, Lutho Sipamla with bumpers, Dean Elgar decided to call his two batters in, leaving New Zealand with a daunting target to chase.

Brief Scores: South Africa 364 (Sarel Erwee 108, Aiden Markram 42; Neil Wagner 4-104, Matt Henry 3-90) & 354/9 decl. (Kyle Verreynne 136) lead New Zealand 293 (Colin de Grandhomme 120, Daryl Mitchell 60; Kagiso Rabada 5-60, Marco Jansen 4-98) and 93/4 (Devon Conway 60*; Kagiso Rabada 2-17) by 331 runs.

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