HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) " After a half century by Hashim Amla, South Africa looked to captain Faf du Plessis to play an innings which backed his decision to bat on the first day of the third test against New Zealand on Saturday.
Du Plessis made an appropriate start, reaching 33 not out, before the rain which had plagued the first two sessions forced players to take an early tea. With Temba Bavuma 12 not out, South Africa was 123-4.
New Zealand's severely depleted bowling attack continued to make life difficult for the Proteas' batsmen and du Plessis faced some pressure to play the anchor innings that South Africa so far had lacked.
For the first time in five years, New Zealand went into a test without both of its senior fast bowlers, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, who are injured. In their absence, Matt Henry, playing in the three-match series for the first time, shared the new ball with medium pacer Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner reverted to the role of third seamer.
The trio toiled hard, bowling all but two of the 41 overs sent down by New Zealand in the first two sessions, while claiming regular wickets to prevent the Proteas striking up a major partnership.
Henry and de Grandhomme both struck early, dismissing openers Theunis de Bruyn, on debut, for 0 and Dean Elgar for 5 to leave South Africa 5-2.
After a 59-run stand between Amla and J.P. Duminy for the third wicket, Henry returned to remove Duminy for 20 shortly before lunch, at which stage it was 71-3.
Amla's was the only wicket to fall between lunch and tea but in a session truncated by rain it was a vital one and kept the contest evenly balanced.
Amla had just posted his 32nd test century " his first of the series " when he misjudged a ball from de Grandhomme and was bowled. South Africa was 97-4 but du Plessis and Bavuma saw the tourists to 123-4 before rain intervened around drinks.
New Zealand had enough opportunity in the 41 overs bowled by tea to show again their complete failure to master the Decision Review System.
They first made the decision, when South Africa was 28-2, not to review an lbw appeal against Duminy, then 7, which had been given not out. Replays showed the ball hitting leg stump and that a review would have gone in New Zealand's favor.
New Zealand then frittered away its two reviews in pursuing another lbw decision against Duminy when the ball had pitched outside leg. It's most egregious error was to review a rejected lbw appeal against du Plessis when he was 15 and South Africa 84-3. Replays showed the ball entirely missed the pad and was the met with the full face of du Plessis' bat.
The error was made more costly shortly afterwards when du Plessis, on 16, edged a ball from Wagner to wicketkeeper B.J. Watling. New Zealand's appeal was turned down and though the Snickometer on the television replay showed a faint edge, the home side's reviews were exhausted.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings