A conservative and methodical approach paid dividends for the New Zealand cricketers who head into the final day of the third test against South Africa needing five wickets for a victory to square the series 1-1.

The Proteas are 80 for five, burdened by a 95-run deficit with a day to play.

Fatigue took hold after they endured 162.1 overs in the field as the Black Caps posted 489.

Overnight rain looks set to delay New Zealand's chances of recording their first test victory over South Africa in 13 years.


Play is set to resume at 10.30am, however constant rain in Hamilton has put serious doubt in play starting on time or even if the players get on the ground at all.

Debate ensued among pundits about whether New Zealand should have batted more aggressively to buy time to attack with the ball.

In reality it was a case of fans and experts getting greedy. Yes, they could have swung into the South African attack like Jason Wynyard when presented with a block of pine, but the risks were high. Here was a side bundled out twice within three days to lose the Wellington test by eight wickets. It's understandable they would want to embed their advantage rather than throwing it away.

The prospect of flicking a switch to tee-off against South Africa's world-class operators was ambitious and could not be manufactured at will. Morne Morkel, Vern Philander, Kagiso Rabada - and latterly Keshav Maharaj - are one of the toughest bowling attacks to

Test cricket tends to be about attrition and yesterday proved the rule rather than the exception.

The hosts' objective was to exhaust the visitors' bowlers (and batsmen) while giving their own the maximum time to rest for a second innings assault.

An example was Colin de Grandhomme making his highest test score of 57 from 70 balls after Kane Williamson and Mitchell Santner posted 88 for the fifth wicket.

A 175-run lead meant New Zealand could pile on the pressure with four sessions to spare. A total of 98 overs are available today, but it's unlikely that many will be bowled.
"The longer we could take it meant we'd reap rewards later," Santner said after making 41 off 151 balls.

"That's what me and Nos [Williamson] were talking about out there. Take runs and keep fighting. It looked like we were batting on different pitches at times."

"Our approach hasn't changed throughout the tour," Jeetan Patel added, after taking two for 22 from 12 overs.

"It's about making them come back spell-after-spell, over-after-over, ball-after-ball.

"Yes, we wanted to score [quickly] but it was at whatever rate they allowed us. They bowled well.

"There was no chat at all about when we were declaring or how many we needed. It was just about grinding away. The five wickets are probably an indication of how long they [South Africa] spent in the field. 160-odd overs takes its toll and players tend to get tired and lazy."

South African assistant coach Adrian Birrell said they toiled.

"But 162 overs is a long time to be in the field. It was a hard day and players are fatigued. To bat on the back of that was always going to be difficult.

"We've got a mountain to climb. Once they got ahead by 100 it was always going to be a survival match, but we've had them before and we will draw on those experiences. We've got a [not out] captain who's determined, and he's fought before. That's what we're speaking about in the changing room.

"We've had time on the legs but we will be fresh after a good night's rest and breakfast."