Cricket: Gibbs takes time to blossom

New Zealand 168 South Africa 229-1

I HAVE seldom watched a more bloodless day's cricket. South Africa spent most of this second day in pursuit of New Zealand's paltry 168 and when at last they overtook that score, they proceeded at the same miserly rate and ended the day only 61 runs to the good, but with one wicket down.

The principal culprit, if one can call him that, was Herschelle Gibbs who took 383 minutes of hard labour to get to his maiden Test century. The redeeming feature may be that having achieved that landmark, his previous highest score was 54, he will show what he is made of.

New Zealand's attack was pretty ordinary. Simon Doull, who had strained an ankle on Thursday, was able to bowl but was perhaps too careful not to aggravate the injury.

The others were journeymen. Geoff Allott, left arm over the wicket, was at best steady; Dion Nash has neither the pace nor the swing he once showed. Daniel Vettori, the left-arm spinner, bowled a tidy length but lacks any sort of guile, while Chris Harris and Nathan Astle are medium-pace dobbers.

The South Africans like to win and this probably justified, for them, their depressing progress. It will serve them right if a doubtful weather forecast wins the day. Gary Kirsten and Gibbs batted for an unconscionable time, as if facing Australia, attempting almost nothing on an orderly pitch.

They put on 127 for the first wicket in 52 overs before Gibbs gave himself away when he straight drove Vettori for six and, soon after lunch, Kirsten swept at Vettori and was caught at midwicket. Thus fell the day's only wicket.

Jacques Kallis began with a flurry of strokes but soon disappeared back into his shell. The rest of an interminable day was spent watching Gibbs negotiate that first hundred. He spent 39 minutes in the 80s, 54 minutes in the 90s and when a lovely cover drive off Allott took him to a hundred he had faced 268 balls. It has been that sort of Test match.

Second day: New Zealand won toss

NEW ZEALAND - First innings 168 (Pollock 4-34)

SOUTH AFRICA - First innings

(overnight: 54-0)

G Kirsten c Astle b Vettori 65

H H Gibbs not out 101

J H Kallis not out 53

Extras (6lb 4nb) 10

Total (for 1, 101 overs) 229

Fall of wickets: 1-127

To bat: D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, J N Rhodes, S M Pollock, M V Boucher, L Klusener, P R Adams, A A Donald.

Bowling: S B Doull 19.5-7-26-0; G I Allott 25-7-70-0; D J Nash 17-5- 38-0; N J Astle 5.1-1-12-0; D L Vettori 21-5-62-1; G R Stead 1-0-1-0; C Z Harris 12-6-14-0.

Umpires: K T Francis (Sri Lanka) and D M Quested (New Zealand).

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