PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa - New Zealand was left facing another heavy defeat to South Africa as it made it to 157-4 after following on in the second test on Sunday, still trailing by 247 runs and with little chance of saving the game or the series.
Dean Brownlie, on 44 not out, and BJ Watling (41 not out) dug in to take the Black Caps to the close and limping into the fourth day at St. George's Park, when South Africa needs six wickets for a 2-0 series whitewash and a fifth straight series win for the top-ranked test team.
New Zealand was on the verge of successive innings defeats after its fragile batting lineup again succumbed to South Africa's bowling unit in Port Elizabeth, losing another eight wickets in the day after a furious early spell by Dale Steyn.
The South African spearhead took three wickets in three overs at the start for his 5-17 in the first innings, and Robin Peterson and Rory Kleinveldt shared four wickets in the second to leave New Zealand heading toward near-inevitable defeat.
"We would have loved another one but to have them four down, we're happy with that," Steyn said.
Only Watling came out with any lasting credit on Sunday with his 63 as New Zealand was first bowled out for 121 on the third morning following South Africa's 525-8 declared.
The gritty wicketkeeper-batsman was unbeaten and closing on a second half-century in a partnership of 73 with Brownlie in New Zealand's second knock — and probably solely responsible for taking the test into the fourth day and past the three days it took South Africa to win by an innings and 27 runs in Cape Town.
"A tough day out there, but I thoroughly enjoyed it at the same time," Watling said. "There's no place I'd rather be. Out there against the best. That's how you learn, that's how you get better."
Still, South Africa was within sight of an even heavier victory than the first game after Steyn's furious end to the first innings for 3-3 on the day, and left-arm spinner Peterson's patient 2-29 in the second innings left New Zealand still some way off the 525-8.
New Zealand had been a massive 404 runs behind after the first innings and yet its 121 was still a vastly improved performance after being 47-6 overnight following the first 24 destructive overs of its first innings.
"You get a few runs, but we're obviously disappointed as a team," Watling said. "We haven't quite done what we came here to do and we haven't showed what we're made of."
The Proteas had enough of a lead to turn to the part-time bowling of captain Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen — its opening batsmen — for a couple of overs of gentle spin in the late afternoon. Smith's first two balls were hit powerfully to the boundary by Brownlie but South Africa's dominance was still never in question.
With New Zealand swaying at 47-6, Steyn ripped out Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner and Jeetan Patel in three of his overs in the morning to go to his 19th career five-wicket haul. Bracewell edged behind, Wagner was lbw in front and Patel saw his off stump blasted out the ground.
Steyn had bowled with hostility to Wagner, especially, after New Zealand's South African-born seamer rapped Steyn on the gloves in the Proteas' innings.
"I just said to him (Wagner) that I'm 20K's (kilometres per hour) quicker than him so he shouldn't bounce me," Steyn said. "I'm just trying to run in and bowl quick. I don't really pick who I want to bowl quick to."
Morne Morkel ended Watling's resistance at the end of New Zealand's first innings after the 'keeper hit 13 fours in a stubborn 59-run partnership for the 10th wicket with Trent Boult (17 not out). It was the highest 10th-wicket partnership for New Zealand against South Africa in tests, but that would give the struggling New Zealanders little heart in the face of another one-sided loss.
Morkel ended the New Zealand first innings, which lasted 44.4 overs, when Watling nicked behind to skipper Smith and Smith enforced the follow-on.
New Zealand fought for spells in its second innings as out-of-touch opener Martin Guptill made his first solid start of the series and McCullum supported for a painstaking 11 from 57 balls.
But two-wicket bursts by Peterson and seamer Kleinveldt (2-31) pushed South Africa closer to successive test wins.
Peterson's flatter delivery in the 21st over went straight on and hit McCullum on the back pad. McCullum reviewed his dismissal, which was upheld, and showed his discontent with the TV technology by waving an arm angrily at the big screen as he left.
It was the third time in his four innings this series that McCullum was dismissed by South Africa's left-arm slow bowler.
Kane Williamson (11) hung around for nearly 45 minutes but also perished to Peterson when his stumps were rattled in the penultimate over before tea.
Kleinveldt burst through with two in two balls when Guptill was bowled just short of a desperately-needed half-century, and Daniel Flynn edged behind first ball for a duck for more South African celebrations — which have been near-constant through this short mismatch of a series.
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