South Africa clinches series after rain washes out last day

HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) " Rain washed out the final day of the third cricket test between New Zealand and South Africa Wednesday, foiling the efforts of a depleted home team to win the test and level the three-match series.

Heavy rain fell throughout the night on Seddon Park, and when the players arrived for the scheduled start there were pools of water on the covers that sheltered the wicket block was significant pooling adjacent to the square and in the outfield.

South Africa was due to resume its second innings at 80-5, still 95 runs behind New Zealand with captain Faf du Plessis and wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock both 15 not out. New Zealand needed five wickets to seal a series-leveling win.

Conditions briefly brightened around the scheduled lunch break but when the rain returned, the umpires and ground staff agreed that there was little likelihood the sodden oval could be made ready for play. The match was called off at 1.30 p.m. local time.

Du Plessis said the rain saved South Africa.

"There was a lot of rain predicted for this game but I wasn't expecting it today," du Plessis said.

"I was ready to come out and play my block-a-thon.

"It's fair to say New Zealand outplayed us in this game ... and they can count themselves very unlucky. They outplayed us in every department and we got saved by the rain."

New Zealand entered the match 1-0 down in the series after losing the second test at Wellington by eight wickets inside three days and after the first test at Dunedin was drawn. That win seemed to underline the superiority of the South African team and New Zealand was given little chance of saving the series after losing frontline seamers Tim Southee and Trent Boult and leading batsman Ross Taylor to injuries.

But the depleted pace attack bowled superbly to dismiss South Africa for 314 in the first innings, a total significantly boosted by de Kock's 90.

Du Plessis' 53 was the next best score and the fighting qualities du Plessis and de Kock showed in the first innings and in Wellington made it far from certain that New Zealand would have an easy path to victory. The sixth-wicket pair defied New Zealand for 46 minutes before stumps on the fourth day, after the Proteas' top order had slumped to 59-5.

The pitch had begun to turn and off-spinner Jeetan Patel took 2-22, including the wickets of Amla for 19 and J.P. Duminy for 13.

New Zealand made 489 in reply, batting for 162 overs around rain interruptions to take a 175-run lead. That advantage effectively measured the influence of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who batted 7-1/2 hours for 176, his second century of the series.

"To be fair we were probably lucky to get so much cricket in," Williamson said. "A couple of days were write-offs and we got four days cricket in. The frustrating part is to be so far developed in the match, in a strong position and for the last day to be rained off.

"But congratulations to South Africa on winning the series. They do deserve it. With a side like South Africa you can't give them an inch. We had a bad day in Wellington and they certainly pounced on that."

Williamson equaled Martin Crowe's record of 17 test centuries for New Zealand and became the sixth New Zealander to pass 5,000 runs in tests.

The match turned in New Zealand's favor during the final session on Tuesday when five South African wickets fell in quick succession. Colin de Grandhomme took the first, dismissing Dean Elgar for 5, and took a catch to remove Amla from Patel's bowling. Patel bowled Duminy and Henry removed Temba Bavuma (1). Theunis de Bruyn was lost to a run out after colliding with Amla.

"We're pleased with another series win away from home but to be completely honest I think we played very much under par," du Plessis said. "Especially when the series is on the line you're looking for your players to front up and make it as hard as possible for the opposition to get your wicket " I thought yesterday that didn't happen."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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