SA-NZ Test heads for cliff-hanger finish | india | Hindustan Times
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SA-NZ Test heads for cliff-hanger finish

The outcome of South Africa's tour of New Zealand was delicately balanced at the end of the penultimate day of the third and final Test on Monday.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2004 13:20 IST

The outcome of South Africa's tour of New Zealand was delicately balanced at the end of the penultimate day of the third and final cricket Test on Monday.

All three possible results remained on the table with South Africa needing another 152 runs to win and square the series, New Zealand needing seven wickets for a convincing 2-0 win, and the chance of rain could reduce the fascinating battle to a draw.

When bad light stopped play, South African captain Graeme Smith was leading from the front with an unbeaten 46, with Gary Kirsten in his 101st and final Test on 19.

In tune with the flow of the game in the first three days, the fourth saw the initiative swing backwards and forwards.

After a rain delayed start of 90 minutes, Chris Cairns and Scott Styris rattled on 50 runs in eight overs, giving a welcome boost to the New Zealand innings with forceful stroke making.

But when they fell in the space of seven balls just after lunch, igniting a slump that saw New Zealand's all out for 252 with the last five wickets tumbling for 54 runs.

Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith began South Africa's quest for 234 for victory in a hurry, racing to 29 in the fifth over, when New Zealand dangerman Chris Martin struck.

He removed Gibbs and Jacques Rudolph in quick succession, with Oram claiming Jacques Kallis and the tourists were in trouble at 36 for three before the Smith and Kirsten revival.

Gibbs had looked in exquisite touch, racing to 16 off 12 balls, including a six off Martin, before the in-form New Zealand paceman forced him to steer a ball to Stephen Fleming at first slip.

In his next over, Martin beat Jacques Rudolph with a ball that pitched on leg and swung late, and the South African who had compiled back-to-back scores of 154 not out and 93 not out, was gone for nought with the score at 31.

Five runs later, Jake Oram had the injured Jacques Kallis trapped in front.

Smith and Kirsten then ground out a further 46 runs before the umpires gave them the benefit of the fading light.

It had earlier looked as if South Africa would have a much steeper target to chase when Cairns and Styris blazed away in the morning session.

Cairns set the pace on the first ball of the day when he clouted Shaun Pollock over the midwicket boundary for six.

By lunch, they had increased New Zealand's lead to 159, but the break gave South Africa time to work out a new line of attack.

Leg spinner Nicky Boje switched to bowling over the wicket and tempted Chris Cairns to open up with the ball falling short of the boundary and safe in the hands of Martin van Jaarsveld, and Cairns was out for 41 in what may be his last Test innings.

Seven balls later Andre Nel had Styris caught and bowled for 73 and it was downhill for there for New Zealand.

Oram was the last batsman dismissed for 40 after a 10th wicket stand of 28 with Chris Martin who was one not out.

Boje led the way for South Africa, finishing with four for 69 off 33.2 overs, while Pollock and Nel two two wickets each.