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Ravindra takes 3 wickets, South Africa reaches 220 for 6 at stumps on Day 1 against New Zealand

HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) — Rachin Ravindra took three wickets and slammed the brakes on South Africa’s scoring to give New Zealand a slight edge Tuesday on the first day of the second cricket test.

Ravindra claimed the key middle-order wickets of Zubayr Hamza, Keegan Petersen and David Bedingham and bowled 21 overs at a cost of only 33 runs to swing the day just in New Zealand’s favor.

New Zealand faced an unexpected obstacle late in the day when Ruan de Swardt posted his maiden half century and the burly allrounder Shaun von Berg, making his test debut at 37, shared an unbroken partnership of 70 for the seventh wicket.

De Swardt was 55 not out and von Berg was unbeaten on 34 as South Africa reached 220-6 at stumps.

On a day of unusual decisions, New Zealand left out regular spinner Mitchell Santner, who took six wickets in the first test, included four seamers and ended up leaning heavily on Ravindra’s left-arm spin.

South Africa captain Neil Brand also made the unexpected decision to bat on winning the toss, becoming only the second captain in the last 11 tests at Seddon Park to do so. The pitch appeared green at first and there was some help early for the seamers as Matt Henry, Will O’Rourke and Neil Wagner shared wickets in the first session. South Africa was 64-3 at lunch.

O’Rourke, who claimed his first test wicket, said “it was pretty challenging, probably a little bit slower than what we were expecting."

Ravindra came into his own after lunch when he helped New Zealand slow South Africa’s scoring rate. He bowled his first 13 overs, including six maidens, at a cost of only 15 runs. When he left the attack at the approach of the second new ball, he had taken 3-33 from 20 overs. He came back to bowl the last over of the day.

His were key wickets. Bedingham made 32 and 87 as South Africa’s leading scorer in the first test; Petersen made 45 and 16 and Hamza 22 and 36. All made starts again on Tuesday but Ravindra prevented them going on.

Hamza had faced 99 balls and batted 142 minutes for 20 when, frustrated, he tried to slog sweep Ravindra and sliced the ball off the top edge to substitute fielder Santner at backward point.

The pressure New Zealand applied by slowing the scoring rate was crucial. There were five consecutive maidens heading into the drinks break in the middle session and, as Hamza’s innings showed, there was a paucity of scoring chances.

Petersen was 2 when he was caught by Tim Southee at slip, pushing well forward to a ball from Ravindra which turned away.

Bedingham’s wicket fell in the sixth over after tea for 39. He had batted 2 1/2 hours and appeared to be the biggest threat to New Zealand from the middle order.

His was an unlucky dismissal; he closed the face and jammed a ball from Ravindra hard onto his front foot from which it bounced to Will Young at short leg. New Zealand appealed, mostly for an attempted run out but the replay showed the ball had carried to Young without touching the ground.

De Swardt and von Berg then joined to form an unlikely rearguard. Their batting wasn’t always orthodox, they played and missed often and had a measure of luck which South Africa deserved after Bedingham’s dismissal, but they held on to stumps. There was delay near the end when de Swardt was hit and needed attention.

But on a day of unexpected decisions, it was fitting there were unlikely heroes: Ravindra for New Zealand, bowling 21 overs on a day meant for seamers, and de Swardt and his older partner doing better than the rest of the South Africa order.

New Zealand leads the two-match series 1-0 and needs only to draw this match to beat South Africa in a series for the first time. Ravindra scored a maiden double century last week in the first innings of the first test.

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AP cricket: https://apnews.com/hub/cricket