South Africa’s Makhaya Ntini was at his best as the BLACKCAPS fell to a 128-run defeat to South Africa in the first Test at Centurion.
Despite Jacob Oram’s heroic first-innings hundred, a Test best of 133, the tourists were at the sharp end of some inspired bowling from Ntini.
The in-form bowler exploited the conditions well to take 10 wickets for 145 runs in the match on a wicket which assisted the seamers, but had little for batsmen.
The BLACKCAPS were eventually removed for 120 in their second innings, chasing 249 to win.
Daniel Vettori (38) and Brendon McCullum (33) led a second innings revival after the Proteas‘ pace attack cut through the top order, while Hamish Marshall made a determined 25.
The game, which was to be South Africa's 100th victory, was also the 100th game for Stephen Fleming, Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock at the aptly-named Centurion.
Having lost the toss, the BLACKCAPS limited their hosts’ first innings to 276, Kyle Mills and James Franklin taking four wickets each.
The BLACKCAPS then recovered well from an early slump in their first innings, moving on from 45 for five through the efforts of Oram, Daniel Vettori (81) and Brendon McCullum (31).
They eventually made 327, a lead of 51, and withstood AB De Villiers’ resolute innings on day three to play themselves into contention. Ntini took five for 94.
De Villiers fell three runs short of a century and Jacques Kallis made 62 as the Proteas finished the day on 280 for nine, 229 ahead of their visitors.
Ntini and Dale Steyn proved difficult to remove early on day four, adding 19 to their team’s second innings which ended on 299.
But ICC World XI representative Ntini unravelled any good work by the BLACKCAPS with a devastating eight-over spell before lunch.
He accrued tremendous figures of four for 19 from the morning session on day four as the Kiwis could not muster a top-order partnership.
Marshall stayed around to push the total on with McCullum, providing the ballast in stand worth 45 after the New Zealanders fell to 34 for six.
The wicketkeeper providing another flashing cameo of 33, including two fours and a pair of sixes in a 38-ball knock.
Vettori then pushed the side further on, scoring six fours and one maximum, but Steyn saw him off and then took Chris Martin to complete his own five-wicket haul and a 1-0 series lead for the hosts.
The second Test of three begins in Cape Town on April 27.