Driving assessment

Rookie shines for SA after skipper’s scathing assessment

Rookie fly-half Sarel Erwee responded to a challenge from his captain with a first century for South Africa on the opening day of the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch.

Erwee’s 108 helped South Africa to 3-238 at the stumps and gave them protection from a late-day setback when the wickets of Erwee and Aiden Markram (42) fell in the space of three balls.

Temba Bavuma was undefeated on 22 with Rassie van der Dussen not out 13.

Proteas captain Dean Elgar challenged his fellow batsmen when he opted to strike winning the toss on the same pitch where the tourists were sent off for 95 and 111 losing the first Test by a round and 276 points.

Erwee only managed 10 points on his debut in the first test.

But he combined with Elgar (41) in an opening stand of 111 on Friday, the Proteas’ first-century partnership for the first wicket in 34 Tests.

Erwee reached his first half century just before lunch and his century above before tea, after exactly four hours at the fold.

“I didn’t expect (to strike first) until Dean came to see me this morning,” Erwee said.

“I guess that’s part of being an opening hitter. You’ve got to be ready for those things and no matter what, you’ve got to pack a punch.”

The ground at Hagley Oval was not quite the tailors’ paradise on which New Zealand’s four-pronged attack thrived in the first Test.

But he was still green enough to make some commentators’ jaws drop when Elgar opted to strike first and explained it was important for South Africa to ‘cope’ after they failed in the first Test.

He said losing the first test had “absolutely nothing to do with skill. Mentally, we were beaten by ourselves”.

Elgar said the second proving ground looked drier and less grassy and he was right.

The ball wobbled at times in cloudy conditions and one of those Tim Southee deliveries, which tipped over and then recovered, hit the top of Elgar’s stump.

Markram, who came into the crease after Elgar was fired, was barely clinging to his spot at No. 3 after going 10 innings without a half-century.

He had made 42 and had put in 88 for the second wicket when he perhaps got overconfident, leading to a ball from Neil Wagner clear of the stump and clipping a hold of Daryl Mitchell on the first slip.

Two balls later, Erwee fired a wide full ball from Matt Henry and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Tom Blundell, leaving the Proteas 3-199.

Bavuma doubled to catchable height thanks to four slides before Henry was finished.

Southee then troubled Bavuma with the second new ball and Henry worried van der Dussen, who was dropped by Devon Conway short at half wicket when nine.