Smith and Gibbs dominate first day
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Smith and Gibbs dominate first day

The opening pair put on 177 ? the fourth-highest of their six century stands ? as South Africa posted 231/2 by stumps on Thursday.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2004 16:12 IST

Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs continued their flourishing opening partnership Thursday to give South Africa control of the second Test against New Zealand at Eden Park.

The pair put on 177 - the fourth-highest of their six century stands - as South Africa mocked New Zealand's decision to bowl on winning the toss.

Smith made 88 and Gibbs 80 as they batted South Africa into a commanding position before their wickets fell at the same score either side of tea.

Gibbs fell to the last ball before the interval, bowled by Chris Cairns, and Smith fell to the first ball of the final session, trapped lbw by recalled medium pacer Chris Martin.

The dismissals, and South Africa's slow scoring rate between tea and stumps, allowed New Zealand to partially redeem a poor bowling performance.

South Africa labored to 231-2 at stumps, adding only 54 in the last two hours.

Jacques Rudolph had batted 134 minutes for 14 runs and Jacques Kallis, trying to equal Sir Donald Bradman's record of six centuries in consecutive Tests, had made careful progress to 39. The day belonged to Smith and Gibbs who, in reaching their sixth century stand in 32 innings together, equaled the South African record held by Trevor Goddard and Eddie Barlow.

The pair has scored more than 300 on three occasions and Thursday's stand stood behind only those massive contributions of 368, 338 and 301.

"We get on well, we know each other's game well, we talk to each other a lot," Smith said.

"I know when he's struggling and vice versa and we work through it. We stress partnerships a lot in our team in the top six and I think we've formed a really good partnership. We complement each other well and we've been lucky."

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming acknowledged, "231-2 was not what we were looking for, certainly."

"I'm disappointed and surprised we weren't able to extract from the pitch what we thought we should have," Fleming said. "We really bowled two lengths and two lines and that was not what the plan required."

Fleming's decision to put in South Africa was unsurprising after the teams examined a faintly green temporary pitch, dropped into the Eden Park surface for this match.

The pitch provided consistent bounce, good pace and slight seam movement but New Zealand's performance with the first new ball failed to exploit the conditions.

Smith and Gibbs were allowed to settle at the wicket and when they did so they set a steady scoring pace, putting on 82 runs before lunch and 95 in the second session.

Gibbs batted 239 minutes for his 80, hitting 13 fours and a six, flat-batted down the ground off Cairns. Cairns had his revenge when he caused a ball to tweak back at the right-hander, striking the top of his off stump.

Smith batted only one minute longer than Gibbs, though their dismissals were separated by the 20-minute tea interval. He misjudged the line of a full delivery from the right-armer Martin and was trapped on the crease and in front of his stumps. Martin was recalled after a two-year absence from Test cricket, preferred ahead of Ian Butler for his ability to move the ball both into and away from the left-handers.

Rudolph and Kallis struggled to re-establish South Africa's scoring momentum after the double dismissal of Smith and Gibbs. Rudolph hit two boundaries from 87 balls and was particularly watchful. Kallis took more care than usual but seemed to be settling into his stride by stumps.

His pursuit of Bradman's 66-year-old record for centuries in consecutive Tests is likely to be one of the highlights of the second day Friday.

First Published: Mar 18, 2004 13:48 IST