Maharaj bowls Proteas to 8-wicket win over NZ in 2nd Test

WELLINGTON: Spinner Keshav Maharaj took a career-best 6-40 and match figures of 8-87 to bowl South Africa to an eight-wicket win over New Zealand in the second cricket test Saturday and a 1-0 lead in the three match series.

In a rapid and stunning end to the match on day three, South Africa was left only 81 runs to win after New Zealand was dismissed for 171 in its second innings off 63.2 overs. Claiming the extra half hour available at the end of the day, South Africa reached its target in 25 overs with Hashim Amla 38 not out and J.P. Duminy unbeaten on 15.

Veteran paceman Morne Morkel took the first three wickets to fall as New Zealand began 91 runs behind the Proteas on the first innings Saturday. Maharaj then ran through the lower and middle order to limit New Zealand to a lead of only 80 runs.

In an unprecedented performance at the Basin Reserve, which has always been the New Zealand pitch most conducive to fast bowling, the South African spinners — Maharaj and J.P. Duminy — took 12-138 to push their team to a victory which will likely decide the three match series.

The third and final test begins in Hamilton on Saturday.

Morkel matched his best test score of 40 and shared a valuable 57-run last-wicket partnership with Vernon Philander (37 not) as South Africa, who began the day 349-9, ended their first innings early on Saturday at 359 in reply to New Zealand's 268.

Morkel's venemous opening spell, helped by the stiff breeze at his back, quickly destroyed any chance New Zealand might have had of winning the match and moving towards its first-ever test series win over South Africa.

Morkel dismissed Tom Latham (6), captain Kane Williamson (1) and Neil Broom (20) to leave New Zealand 64-3, still trailing South Africa by 37 runs but with the heart of its depleted batting lineup exposed.

Opener Jeet Raval made a valiant, sometimes painful and largely unsupported effort to revive the New Zealand innings, batting almost four hours for his highest test score of 80.

Raval has been past 50 in tests three times without going on to a century. His previous best was 56 but his average of 36 attests to his consistency.

He made a lone effort to stand against the South African bowlers on Saturday, first Morkel, then Maharaj who took such a toll among his teammates. Raval also faced a searching test from young fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who peppered him with short-pitched deliveries in a fiery spell during which he hit the right-hander repeatedly on the fingertips.

Raval endured that ordeal in his effort to keep New Zealand's innings alive but had little support.

The next best was wicketkeeper B.J. Watling, who batted 2-1/4 hours for 29 and put on 65 with Raval for the sixth wicket. Both Raval and Watling were out during a period late in the afternoon in which Maharaj wove a spell over the New Zealand batsman.

Maharaj dismissed first innings century-maker Henry Nicholls (7) and James Neesham (4) in the same over, then claimed the wickets of Colin de Grandhomme, Raval, Watling and Tim Southee to wrap up the innings.

De Grandhomme's wicket was his piece de resistance — a ball which pitched on leg stump to the right hander, turned and struck off stump.

Raval's stubborn, four-hour resistance ended when he chased a ball wide of off stump and was stumped by Quinton de Kock, who also took three superb catches. New Zealand was then 155-6 and Maharaj brought about the speedy end of the innings, helping South Africa secure the last four wickets for 16 runs.

South Africa lost openers Stephen Cook (11) and Dean Elgar (17) before its winning target was achieved but its win was still emphatic and New Zealand seems to have no way back into the series with one test remaining.