Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Proteas captain admits to ‘tough two days of cricket’ against Kiwis

The SA captain says his team are 'under the pump' after New Zealand take charge of first Test.

Having faced a baptism of fire, Proteas captain Neil Brand admitted the opening two days of the first Test against New Zealand had been a “tough grind”.

The under-strength national team were left facing a wall that needed to be climbed at Mount Maunganui in the early hours of Tuesday morning (SA time) if they hoped to claw their way back into contention.

After resuming their first innings at 258/2 on Monday, the hosts went on to rack up 511 runs before they were bowled out shortly after the tea break.

They were anchored by Ravin Rachindra, who turned his maiden Test century into a double century, contributing 240 runs to his team’s cause (including 26 fours and three sixes) after spending more than nine hours at the crease overnight.

Brand was the best of the SA bowlers, returning 6/119 in his maiden Test innings with the ball. The skipper ripped through New Zealand’s tail, ensuring their last five wickets fell for just 38 runs as he brought an end to the carnage.

Proteas collapse

In response, a top-order collapse left the Proteas reeling at 84/4 at the close on Monday. They trailed by 431 runs with just six wickets remaining in their first innings.

“It’s been a grind for us but we didn’t expect anything less. They batted really well, and we gave them a few chances, which didn’t help,” said Brand, one of six uncapped players in the SA team.

“All in all it’s been a tough two days of cricket but I very much feel that we can still do something special here.”

Rachin Ravindra

Brand was full of praise for Ravindra, who stood up and delivered after struggling to hit his straps in the previous three Tests he had played for the Black Caps.

“He was unbelievable, to be honest. Obviously we did drop him but other than that it was a flawless innings,” Brand said.

“He’s a great player and I’m sure he’s got a big future ahead of him.”

Despite needing to launch an unlikely comeback on Tuesday in order to stay in contention on day three, Brand said the Proteas retained a positive mindset and were determined to keep fighting against their fancied hosts.

“Whenever you get down on yourself you just look at the crowd. It’s amazing to be on a ground like this, doing what you love, and the crowd has been fantastic, so the first few days have been amazing, even though we’re a bit under the pump.”

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits