CRICKET; Kirsten record puts South Africa level

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New Zealand 185 and 192

South Africa 226 and 153-2

(South Africa won by 8 wickets)

A record second-wicket partnership of 97 between Gary Kirsten and John Commins, who was making his Test debut, steered South Africa to a eight-wicket victory over New Zealand in Durban yesterday.

Spurred on by a crowd of more than 11,000 - the biggest of the five days - South Africa wrapped up the match before lunch on the final day.

Daryll Cullinan struck the winning runs with a four off Matthew Hart, but it was Kirsten, unbeaten on 66, which included nine fours, who dominated the morning session. Fanie de Villiers, with match figures of 8 for 120, won the man of the match award.

The series is now level at 1-1, with one Test remaining, starting in Cape Town on Monday.

South Africa had needed to add only 111 runs to their overnight 41, but the captain, Hansie Cronje, said his team took nothing for granted.

"It's never easy on the last day," he said. "We were anxious and we were a bit nervous."

New Zealand ruined their slender chances of salvaging the match in the opening over of the morning.

Commins, dropped when he had just one run on Thursday, was dropped again- this time by Stephen Fleming at first slip - without adding to his overnight total.

Commins, in fact, lived dangerously. Having survived a confident leg before appeal by Morrison, he also took evasive action against a bumper but only succeeded in top edging the ball past the wicketkeeper.

After that he settled down and, with Kirsten, looking in good form, put on a 50 partnership in 87 minutes. Kirsten then moved to his fourth half-century in 11 Tests off only 92 balls.

When their partnership pushed through the 76-run barrier Kirsten and Commins had set a new record for South Africa against New Zealand, beating the 75 by Jimmy Christy and Jock Cameron at Wellington in 1931-32.

New Zealand easily won the first Test, but failed to win a match in the Benson and Hedges quadrangular limited overs series that also included Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

(Final day; New Zealand won toss)

NEW ZEALAND - First Innings 185 (S A Thomson 82; P S de Villiers 5-64).

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings 226 (S B Doull 5-73; D K Morrison 4-70)

NEW ZEALAND - Second Innings 192 (B A Young 51).

SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings (Overnight: 41 for 1)

A C Hudson c Parore b Doull 6

G Kirsten not out 66

J Commins c Young b Hart 45

D Cullinan not out 25

Extras 11

Total (for 2, 45.4 overs) 153

Fall of wickets: 1-20 2-117.

Bowling: Doul 15-5-26-1; Morrison 15-1-56-0 (2nb); Hart 13.4-2-52-1; Thomson 2-1-10-0.