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Kirsten's century lifts South Africa

Gary Kirsten survived a crisis on 99 in his 99th test to reach 137 and solidify South Africa's control of the first Test against New Zealand.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2004 13:08 IST

Gary Kirsten survived a crisis on 99 in his 99th test to reach 137 and solidify South Africa's control of the first cricket Test against New Zealand on the second day Thursday.

Kirsten, 36, began what may be the last series of his 10-year career with his 21st Test century, guiding South Africa to a commanding 459 in their first innings.

New Zealand were 102 for two in their first innings at stumps Thursday. South Africa made a critical breakthrough nine overs before the close of play when they removed New Zealand's captain and best batsman Stephen Fleming for 27.
Fleming, who fell playing back to off-spinner Paul Adams, was among four of eight batsmen dismissed Thursday who fell lbw on a pitch notable for its slow pace and low bounce.

Scott Styris was 16 not out at stumps and opener Michael Papps, who was dropped at slip early in his innings, reached 50 on debut just before the close.
The loss of two New Zealand wickets, balanced by Papps' half century, left the match carefully poised.

"Tomorrow is the key to the match," said New Zealand coach John Bracewell.
"If we are still batting at the end of the day then, yes, we have a chance. If we're not then they probably hold the trump card."

South Africa resumed Thursday at 279 for four, having laid the foundation of a controlling total but having been rocked a few overs before stumps on day one by the loss of Jacques Kallis for 92. Kirsten anchored the second half of South Africa's innings, patiently nurturing partnerships, achieving the century Kallis was denied and finally adding valuable runs to the South African total. His best partnership was 59 with Mark Boucher, who made 22, but the stands which most frustrated New Zealand, and most hurt the home side, were those with tailenders Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel which jointly produced 80 runs.
Kirsten batted in total for seven minutes more than five hours, faced 213 balls and hit 18 fours and one six in an chanceless innings that mixed grace and patience.

Many of his runs came through or behind point and he relished the opportunity to lean back and cut both the spinners and medium pacers through the unguarded portions of the offside field. Later in innings, he unleashed a number of superb drives past cover and through mid-off including the last, straight-hit six which crowned his innings.

Kirsten's authority at the start and near the end of his innings contrasted with a prolonged period of uncertainty when he reached 99.

South Africa was then nine wickets down and Kirsten had to rely on redoubtable No. 11 Nel, a man who has scored only 11 runs in six Test innings, to give him the time and support to reach his milestone.

Kirsten seemed to take a mammoth risk when, on 98 and on Nel's arrival at the crease, he took a single to fine leg and gave the strike to the tall fast bowler.
Nel returned the favour, taking a single to give Kirsten a chance to score the vital run but the dogged left-hander only blocked out the final ball of Daryl Tuffey's over.

Nel took a single from the first ball of the next over, bowled by Daniel Vettori, and again looked to Kirsten to complete his century but the veteran blocked the next five balls.

As tension mounted, Nel played out a maiden from Tuffey before Kirsten regained the strike and eased himself into his 21st century, his second in 11 Tests against New Zealand.

He had batted 280 minutes when his century was raised and had hit 14 fours. He was more expansive after the milestone had been reached and his last 37 runs, part of a 44-run stand with Nel, made South Africa's total imposing.

First Published: Mar 11, 2004 10:21 IST