It was a day Tom Latham has been sweating on for a while and tonight he could give himself a pat on the back.

Not only did the out-of-sorts Canterbury lefthander make his first decent score of the series, 42 not out, at Seddon Park against South Africa after an awful run of low outs going back several weeks, but he took a catch to savour as well.

It might not sound much, and he'd doubtless mumble that 42 is nowhere near what he's looking for, and that he needs to press on tomorrow.

But after what he's been through - 24 in his previous three test innings, 35 in his last seven ODI innings -- 42 should sound pretty good to him tomorrow morning.


New Zealand start day three at 67 for none - easily the best opening stand of the series from either side - in pursuit of South Africa's 314.

This is a test New Zealand have to win to square the series. Two breaks for rain didn't help today and the prognosis over the next three days is for more rain, so their prospects are slim.

Still, bowling coach Shane Jurgensen reckons New Zealand are in the hunt, and was proud of the efforts of his attack, minus kingpins Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Seamer Matt Henry stood out, his four for 93 matching his previous best test figures.

''It was a fantastic effort," Jurgensen said. ''Matt's been waiting for an opportunity since Christmas. He attacked the crease, always asked questions. He's been bowling well in domestic cricket and he's brought it up to international cricket.

''We've had a good start, the game is evenly poised. We think we're in a good position but still there's a lot of work to do. But the openers have set us up for a good start.

Which brings us to Latham.

He took a brilliant, instinctive catch at short square leg to remove Faf du Plessis, on 53, just as the South African skipper was looking the rock on which New Zealand's push would founder.

Add in two slip catches, the second a smart low take to his right shortly after his dazzling one-hander in close and he should have taken a jab of confidence.

''It looked like it sparked something," South Africa's batting coach Neil McKenzie said of the stunning catch. ''It was good athleticism and reading the game well."

Latham had some early worries, surviving a DRS referral for leg before from Morne Morkel, and a leg side glance off Kagiso Rabada just eluded wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.

But four boundaries in nine Rabada deliveries, three of them quality drives through the offside, won't have hurt his self belief.

''His slip catching was excellent, he was aggressive and vocal and I think he took that into his batting today," Jurgensen said.

South Africa scored 124 for their last four wickets, the classy de Kock following his 91 in Wellington with 90 yesterday, once more overseeing a revival late in the innings, despite carrying a painful index finger injury.

''He just gets on with it but I could definitely see he was very uncomfortable," McKenzie said.

The forecast is poor for tomorrow and time is not New Zealand's friend. They'll need to cross their fingers on the weather front, bat positively, and win any tricks on offer.

It is shaping as a race against time to pull off what seems an improbable win on which to end the season.