GARY STEAD and Chris Harris staged a considerable rescue operation at the Basin Reserve after New Zealand had won the toss in the third Test and seemed poised to capitulate even more ignominiously than they had done in the second in Christchurch.
The score was 58 for 4 when Harris joined Stead, who had played his first Test for New Zealand at the age of 27 last week at Lancaster Park. He is a stockily-built left-hander and, although the South Africans complained at his luck, he is not the worst of players.
He tucked the ball away assiduously off his legs and forced the ball handsomely through the off-side. He played some lovely square cuts and produced the best stroke of the day in the over he reached fifty when he on-drove Hansie Cronje for four.
It took Harris longer to settle and in 20 overs before tea he made only 15. Afterwards, he was transformed and fours flowed off his bat as he forced Shaun Pollock through extra cover, pulled and square-drove Steve Elworthy, forced Cronje to extra-cover and smashed a short one from Jacques Kallis past cover. It was stirring stuff and it will have done New Zealand's morale, which was down near its boots around lunch, no end of good. The hundred stand came up in 138 minutes and then the third of three fours in an over off Cronje, a square-cut, took Stead to 50 in 107 balls with eight fours.
Harris's 50 came four overs later when he pulled a long-hop from Paul Adams to the boundary. This was his seventh four and he had faced 119 balls. Ten runs and six overs later, Pollock took the second new ball and New Zealand's recovery was scuppered in the closing overs when it removed first Stead and then the nightwatchman, Daniel Vettori.
New Zealand had been awful in the first part of the day even though Allan Donald's stomach muscle strain had prevented him from turning out for South Africa. In the ninth over, Matt Horne forgot his footwork when coming forward to Pollock and was caught at slip. At 32, Brian Young drove, also without footwork and at third slip Jonty Rhodes made an awkward catch look easy.
The score was 50 for 2 at lunch and afterwards Nathan Astle was yorked by Elworthy. One run later, at 58, Roger Twose, who had looked hopelessly out of his depth for 79 balls, failed to take his bat out of the way and was caught behind off Elworthy.
First day; New Zealand won toss
NEW ZEALAND - First Innings
M J Horne c Cullinan b Pollock 2
B A Young c Rhodes b Kallis 18
R G Twose c Boucher b Elworthy 12
N J Astle b Elworthy 20
G R Stead c Pollock b Elworthy 68
C Z Harris not out 66
D L Vettori c Kallis b Elworthy 4
A C Parore not out 0
Extras (18lb 3nb) 21
Total (for 6, 90 overs) 211
Fall: 1-7, 2-32, 3-57, 4-58, 5-203, 6-207.
To bat: *D J Nash, S B Doull, S B O'Connor.
Bowling: Pollock 22-10-30-1 (3nb); Elworthy 21-7-58-4; Kallis 20-5-44- 1; Klusener 15-7-33-0; Adams 7-2-12-0; Cronje 5-3-16-0.
SOUTH AFRICA: G Kirsten, H H Gibbs, J H Kallis, D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, J N Rhodes, S M Pollock, M V Boucher, L Klusener, P R Adams, S Elworthy.
Umpires: D B Cowie (NZ) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).