Cricket: Astle holds up S Africa

New Zealand 222 & 217-7 South Africa 498-8 dec

HAD SOUTH AFRICA had not dropped an embarrassing collection of catches at the Basin Reserve yesterday, the third Test would already have been over. As it is, with three wickets left, New Zealand are 59 runs behind going into the final day.

A hostile weather forecast persuaded Hansie Cronje to declare South Africa's innings at their overnight 498 for 8, 276 runs ahead. When New Zealand lost their first three second innings wickets for 35 in 12 overs, it did not look as if there would be an afternoon session.

Nathan Astle and Gary Stead then offered determined resistance. Astle is a robust and fluent stroke-maker but with little sense of discretion. Flashing off-side strokes saw him twice dropped at cover by Herschelle Gibbs and both were straightforward chances.

Then he drove at Jacques Kallis who dropped two return catches in the same over, one, down by his ankles, was hard, the other, waist-high, easy. But, on a worn pitch, New Zealand were never likely to hold out.

Stead was the only wicket to fall in the afternoon session, when he play defensively at Steve Elworthy and was lbw. Elworthy bowled well, finding movement off the seam and using his height to bang the ball in and get lift from the pitch.

Astle reached his 50 when he drove Kallis behind square for four and Chris Harris settled in at the other end. They added 52 before Astle pushed at Elworthy and was bowled off the pad when the ball nipped into him.

Harris produced the best stroke of the day when he pulled a short one from Elworthy to the long mid-wicket boundary for a spectacular six. Adam Parore was then brilliantly caught at silly point by a diving Jonty Rhodes off the glove as he pushed at Paul Adams.

It was 196 when the left-handed Harris thrust forward to Adams down the line of the off-stump and was bowled round his legs when the ball turned into him.

The clocks in New Zealand went back overnight and as a result bad light brought the players in soon after the new ball had been taken by Shaun Pollock near the end.

Fourth day; New Zealand won toss

NEW ZEALAND - First Innings 222 (G R Stead 68, C Z Harris 68; S M Pollock 5-33).

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings

(Friday: 235 for 2)

H H Gibbs c O'Connor b Vettori 120

D J Cullinan c and b Astle 152

*W J Cronje c Nash b Vettori 72

J N Rhodes c Young b Vettori 3

S M Pollock not out 43

M V Boucher b Vettori 8

L Klusener c Parore b Nash 19

S Elworthy not out 3

Extras (nb5 lb6 b10) 21

Total (for 8 dec, 165 overs) 498

Fall (cont): 3-258, 4-403, 5-415, 6-420, 7-440, 8-489.

Bowling: Doull 24-4-77-0; O'Connor 24-4-89-1; Nash 25-7-76-2; Vettori 54-16-153-4; Harris 22-0-66-0; Astle 16-8-21-1.

NEW ZEALAND - Second Innings

B A Young c Boucher b Pollock 2

M J Horne lbw Elworthy 27

R G Twose c Pollock b Elworthy 5

N J Astle b Elworthy 62

G R Stead lbw Elworthy 33

C Z Harris b Adams 41

A C Parore c Rhodes b Adams 19

*D J Nash not out 4

D L Vettori not out 12

Extras (lb3, nb2, b7) 12

Total (for 7) 217

Fall: 1-8, 2-35, 3-35, 4-100, 5-152, 6-196, 7-199.

To bat: S B Doull, S B O'Connor.

Bowling: Pollock 19-4-49-1; Elworthy 22-5-58-4; Kallis 19-7-50-0; Klusener 11-7-15-0; Adams 18-6-35-2.

Umpires: D B Cowie (NZ) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).

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