Fixing New Zealand’s Public Holiday and Festival Schedule

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The most absurd thing I ever saw in my life was in Brisbane in mid-December, 2001. On a sweltering Queensland summer day I walked to the corner dairy to buy a soft drink. The neighbourhood I was staying in was having a competition; the object being to best decorate your house for the season.

What the season apparently meant to Queenslanders was evident by the piles of fake snow, strings of bright lights and plywood sleds replete with papier-mache reindeer and a Santa in a thick red coat. It’s no better in New Zealand, because the core problem is that we celebrate Christmas in entirely the wrong season.

Christmas is known as Yule in Northern Europe, from where we inherited the cultural tradition. The Yule festival is celebrated at the same time of the calendar, which is of course the middle of winter in Northern Europe. The reason why this festival evolved in the cultures of the North is because, on the 24/25th of December in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun noticeably begins to climb from the nadir it reached a few days previously at the Winter Solstice.

This means that Christmas has a spiritual meaning that makes perfect sense to a Northern European in late December: the time of peak darkness has passed, and now light returns to the world. This is why the Yule festival is characterised by lights. The lights symbolise the human spirit that burns brightly in even the darkest times. And now that the darkest times are over, it’s time to rejoice.

The reason why Christmas is the “season of good cheer” is precisely because it represents a point in the natural cycle of the seasons at which the most difficult period, as measured by length of the day, has been overcome. It’s also the natural time for people to come together because it is very cold. Coming together in the cold to celebrate the return of the light in the days after the Winter Solstice has probably been a tradition for thousands of years before Abrahamism came to Europe and called the festival Christmas.

Therefore, celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer playing cricket and drinking cold drinks at the beach while stinking of sunscreen makes no sense at all. If anything, midsummer is a time of mourning in the European North.

Likewise Easter. The reason why we celebrate Easter with chocolate rabbits even today is because Easter is a fertility ritual (the word Easter is connected to the word estrogen, the female fertility hormone, and is celebrated at the full moon, the Moon being also a symbol of the feminine).

Celebrating a fertility ritual in early April makes sense if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. It is, after all, the advent of spring there, and after a long and dreary winter people are coming outside again and noticing how nice the girls look with less clothing in a bit of sunlight, especially if you’ve just spent a long winter with nothing but your sisters, mother and grandmother for company. In Northern Europe this is still commonly celebrated with a dance around the maypole (although this happens on Midsommar in Sweden and not early May), an obvious phallic symbol.

Halloween is another example that makes no sense. Although this is not a public holiday and is not likely to be, the theme of it suits the Northern Hemisphere and not the South. The last day of October is also about six weeks after the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and therefore marks the day when the warmth begins to follow the light into the depths of winter.

This is why it is themed with symbols of death and foreboding. The point of the ritual is to treat the small death of winter as something fun and light-hearted, in order to lessen the sorrow one feels towards one’s inevitable big, and final, death. One enjoys Halloween to the degree that one is unafraid of death – this is why it is usually celebrated mostly by the young and by the old.

In New Zealand it feels ridiculous to drive down a street in late October when the evenings are just becoming very bright and to see young people in dark clothing trying to look spooky. We ought to celebrate Halloween on the last day of April, when the shadows are becoming long and the trees are red and yellow. This would make sense as the approaching winter would provide the right backdrop for a ghoulish festival.

My conviction is that New Zealanders of all cultural heritages must accept that if they are loyal to this country then they are Polynesians first and any cultural traditions from ancestral lands must be adapted to Aotearoa. The penalty for failing to do so is cognitive dissonance and a deeply unfortunate disconnection from the spirituality of the natural world.

In so far as we celebrate British seasonal events in a Southern Hemisphere country it appears as if our hearts are still back in Britain. The first thing we should correct in order to fix this is to celebrate our public holidays on days of the calendar that make sense for New Zealand, not for London.

After all, if there’s one thing that New Zealanders of all ancestries can agree on, it’s that New Zealand is dark in June and cold in August, and bright in December and warm in February.

Suggestion for a 14-day public holiday schedule:

(1) 01 JAN – New Year’s Day.
(2) 06 FEB – Waitangi Day.
(3) Some weekend in late March to serve as Queen’s Birthday Weekend (we don’t actually celebrate the Queen’s Birthday on the Queen’s Birthday so can change this).
(4) 25 APR – ANZAC Day.
(5) 31 APR – A Southern All-Souls Eve along the lines of the Northern European Halloween.
(6) Matariki in late May/early June – this is extremely important as it represents the first efforts of anyone in New Zealand to associate a time of spiritual practice with a regularly occurring natural phenomenon (the rise of the Pleiades cluster when viewed from NZ).
(7, 8, 9) 3 days over winter to replace Christmas, probably the 24 – 26 JUN. This would mean we have time off to celebrate having survived the winter with our friends and family.
(10) 09 AUG – This is the day that George Nepia played his last All Blacks Test. The point of a national holiday on this date would be to celebrate New Zealand’s sporting achievements in all disciplines and to celebrate how sport has broken down barriers of class and race in New Zealand. It would also break up the period between Christmas and Easter.
(11, 12) 2 days for Easter – the Friday before the weekend closest to the first full moon immediately after the autumn equinox in late September and the Monday immediately following that. This sounds complicated but it’s literally the reverse of what is done now. This would therefore fall in late September on most occasions.
(13) 4th Monday of October – Labour Day.
(14) 31 DEC – New Year’s Eve.

The Black Caps Tour of India, 2016

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The return of Jimmy Neesham to the Black Caps Test side, announced this week, might go some way towards filling the Brendon McCullum-sized hole at No. 5 as the Black Caps begin their tour of India later this month.

It’s very difficult to pick exactly what Black Caps side will take the field when the first Test begins in Kanpur on September 22.

For one reason, the bowling attack will likely be very different to that which played in Africa. The last time the Black Caps were in India they opened their World T20 campaign with a shock win over India themselves – and spinners took the first nine wickets (Santner 4, Sodhi 3, McCullum 2).

Gavin Larsen suggested that it was of value to the Black Caps side to have two seam-bowling allrounders in Neesham and Doug Bracewell. If both play, along with the expected two spinners, one of the regular pace trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner will have to sit out.

Of interest is that the workhorse of the pace attack, Neil Wagner, is up to 9th place in the Test bowling rankings. This puts extreme pressure on Tim Southee’s position, as Trent Boult is generally considered the more dangerous of the new ball pair. Boult is also 10th on the rankings – Southee is a creditable but not compelling 15th.

If two of Santner, Craig and Sodhi play, there may be only room for one seam-bowling allrounder (likely Neesham) and two of the regular pace trio.

This is unless something changes with the batting. Although Martin Guptill might be the Black Cap with the most pressure on his spot, his primary challenger, Jeet Raval, has been dropped from the squad (along with Matt Henry). That probably means that Guptill will have the whole India tour to make good on the immense potential he has shown as an ODI batsman.

Henry Nicholls was not impressive in Zimbabwe, making only 18 and 15 and playing some rash shots. He didn’t get to bat in the first Test against South Africa. Then, in the second Test, under immense pressure from the strongest bowling trio in world cricket right now in Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada, he outscored even Kane Williamson, coming in at 3/5 in the fourth innings and losing Williamson soon after.

The promise shown against that world-class attack might be enough to dismiss talk of Neesham batting at 5 in order to strengthen the bowling options.

Also, because India at home with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja is an incredibly difficult challenge right now, the logical thing to do might be to strengthen the batting.

It’s possible that we will see a team that looks like:

1. Latham
2. Guptill
3. Williamson (c)
4. Taylor
5. Nicholls
6. Neesham (2)
7. Watling (wk)
8. Santner (5)
9. Craig (4)
10. Wagner (3)
11. Boult (1)

The War on Drugs Was Known to be a Failure Twenty Years Ago

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Much recent media attention has focused on the question of whether the War on Drugs has failed in New Zealand. Amazingly, a review of Ben Vidgen’s 1999 book State Secrets suggests that the War on Drugs was widely known to be a failure since at least two decades ago, even at the highest political level.

One of the arguments that John Key has been rolling out to deny the need for cannabis law reform is that it “would send the wrong message”. Apparently his idea is that if cannabis was legalised in New Zealand many vulnerable people would interpret that as a green light to smoke as much of it as possible.

Leaving aside the obvious point that no-one in New Zealand who wants to smoke cannabis is waiting for permission from the government to do so, it’s interesting how much mileage conservatives have got out of that one bit of rhetoric.

On page 33 of Vidgen’s bestseller State Secrets it says that John Howard back in 1998 used the same rhetoric to stymie cannabis law reform in Australia. Noting that already in the late 1990s it was understood by intelligent people that “by removing the profit incentive associated with drug dealing, decriminalisation would, in effect, destroy the capital base from which organised crime’s influence originates,” the book describes how Howard rejected the idea on the grounds of “the wrong message”.

Perhaps depressingly, Vidgen’s book makes it clear that the Establishment has simply ignored the voices of reason for decades now. Writing that the best way to view drug use in society was as a “social and health problem”, it seems incredible that almost twenty years later it would be necessary to make the same arguments.

Given that the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party won 1.66% of the vote in the 1996 election, it’s a shame that we could so stubbornly remain deaf to the truth, even when doing so comes at horrendous expense.

Vidgen agrees with this column that the failure of the War on Drugs is deliberate. He points out in State Secrets that such talk inevitably gets dismissed as conspiracy theory, but that if an objective observer joins the dots it becomes apparent that the legal status of many drugs – cannabis in particular – affords opportunity for extralegal actors to profit immensely from their trafficking and sale.

Some say that intelligence agencies sell drugs in New Zealand to finance off-the-books operations. Probably most people would be horrified to know how deep the rabbit hole goes.

If Cannabis is a Mental Health Medicine, Then We Are Killing People With Prohibition

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High in the news at the moment is the story that six young people have killed themselves in three months in the town of Kaitaia, population 5,000. Kaitaia is in the search for solutions; so far suggested is a youth space and more streetlights in some back streets.

Predictably, no-one in the New Zealand ruling class has the courage to suggest the legalisation of cannabis.

According to a study by Montana State University, suicides among men aged 20 through 39 years fell roughly 10% after medical cannabis was legalised compared to those states that did not legalise.

The study says that the lower rate of suicide in states that have legalised medicinal cannabis “is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events.”

This is something that almost every young person in New Zealand knows! Almost 100% of New Zealand youth know that cannabis should not be illegal. They’ve seen most of their parents smoke it and they know it’s less dangerous than alcohol. I personally can credit the use of cannabis with saving me from a desperately dark psychological situation.

But the ruling class puts young people in prison for this medicinal plant that saves lives, and then says the problem is a lack of streetlights! The fact that the ruling class is so appallingly out of touch is another reason why it’s so difficult to be a young person in New Zealand.

How stupid are they? Why don’t they ask the young people with mental illness what they want, instead of assuming that because they are mentally ill they can’t possibly know?

85% of Kaitaia live on some kind of benefit. If you are on the benefit in New Zealand and don’t have cannabis, then insanity is never far away. Being a young person in New Zealand is difficult, due to the almost total absence of stimulation.

Being a young person on a benefit in economically depressed small-town New Zealand is an extremely difficult psychological challenge.

If a person doesn’t understand that, then they don’t have the empathy necessary to be involved in the process about how to solve our mental health problems.

Mike King has it right when he said “If we’re going to put a dent in these appalling numbers we have around suicide then we’re going to have to start listening to communities,” he says.

Well, at least 90% of these young people want the right to relax, to calm down, and to stimulate their artistic and creative endeavours by smoking cannabis. Are you going to listen to that?

This is what the community is saying: smoking cannabis takes our suffering away. Cannabis prohibition takes away a mental health medicine that we could be using to make our lives better. It’s even backed up by the statistics.

Young people are dying because you’re not listening.

How Media Bias in New Zealand Contributes to a Prohibitionist Attitude

cannabismurder

The bias against cannabis in the New Zealand media expresses itself in a number of ways. Some excerpts from a recent Southland Times article called “Invercargill Teen Jailed for One Punch Kill” show how biased this sort of reporting is.

Thanks to a phenomenon called the serial position effect, psychologists know that, when presented with a list of items, a person reading them is more likely to remember the one that was first in the list. Keep this simple fact in mind when analysing this piece.

The article told the pathetic story of Tyrone Palmer, who killed a man named Matthew Coley with a single punch to the side of the head in Invercargill earlier this year.

Near the beginning of the article is the sentence “On Friday, April 8, Palmer had… used the class A drug LSD, cannabis, and alcohol.”

Understanding the serial position effect, we know that anyone reading that passage is likely to take away from it the message that “the class A drug” LSD and cannabis were at least as responsible for the sucker punch as the alcohol was.

Anyone with a clue, of course, will know that the LSD and cannabis had nothing to do with the violence for the simple reason that psychedelics do not make people violent. Moreover, there are hundreds of cases of unprovoked violence every year in New Zealand that involve alcohol and no cannabis, and there is never a case of unprovoked violence in New Zealand that involves cannabis and not alcohol.

“The judge was particularly concerned about the effect drug and alcohol use can have on young people. ‘I am intensely troubled by the reference in the narrative to the use of [LSD], cannabis and alcohol.'”

Apart from again manipulating the reaction of the reader by leading them to associate LSD and cannabis with the violence, this sentence also uses the common prohibitionist rhetorical device of distinguishing ‘drugs’ from ‘alcohol’.

The reason why this is done is because much of the impetus behind cannabis prohibition comes from the liquor industry, as the first thing any industry does in a capitalist system is to try and destroy their competitors, and the alcohol industry knows that a large proportion of people would rather smoke cannabis than drink alcohol.

The article waits until the very last sentence to mention that Coley’s mother “planned to keep warning New Zealanders of the dangers around youth drinking.” So the quote of the one person in the whole story who places the blame on the alcohol is shunted down to the very bottom of the story.

Incredibly, the final sentence for punching another human being to death was 22 months – the same as the sentence initially handed out to Kelly van Gaalen last year for cannabis cultivation.

The ultimate effect of the kind of dishonest rhetoric shown by the author of the Southland Times article is that growing a medicinal plant comes to carry the same penalty as killing another person.

Another Rain Affected Day Frustrates

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Third Day, First Test, Black Caps vs. South Africa in South Africa 2016

Rain destroyed the entire third day of the first Test between the Black Caps and South Africa.

By 2200 NZT, The BetFair odds heavily favoured the Draw. South Africa were paying $2.98, the Black Caps $15.50 and the Draw $1.59. Anyone who had money sitting on the Draw would have made a killing in this time.

By 0100 NZT, with it being clear that the day was to be washed out, South Africa were at $7.20, the Black Caps at $34.00 and the Draw in to $1.19.

– DAN McGLASHAN

Karl du Fresne: Thinker of Yesterday

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The Establishment is wheeling out all manner of propagandists in their last-ditch efforts to continue the War on Drugs, and after booze-sozzled losers like Mike Hosking and Paul Henry have had their say, the barrel is truly being scraped.

The latest pisshead Baby Boomer to do a King Knut impression is Karl du Fresne. His attempt to defend the indefensible is called “It’s the underbelly of society that lives with with drugs’ consequences.”

As you will see, only someone whose brain has been damaged by alcohol could write a piece of drivel like this.

The only one sentence that makes sense in the whole piece is the first one: “My generation has a lot to answer for.” Du Fresne was born in 1950, and thus is part of the generation responsible for the War on Drugs. Not for drugs, nor for drug use, but for the War on Drugs.

His entire article gets this simple truth arse about face.

“Drugs were one way of rebelling against a society they found dull and stifling.” Du Fresne accidentally makes an ironic point here – the generation of people who are young in 2016 take drugs specifically because the mainstream cultural narrative of New Zealand is set by people like Karl du Fresne.

“Many of the people whose jobs disappeared in the 1980s sought escape in cannabis, glue and later, methamphetamine.” Many people did, after all, there were a lot of them. But none of the cannabis users came to the attention of the coroner – unlike the heroin users, which du Fresne neglects to mention (perhaps severe long-term alcohol abuse has damaged his long-term memory?).

Nor the pissheads, who will never get mentioned. The vast majority of people who became substance abusers on account of the economic policies of the 1980s became alcoholics. In terms of actual damage done, alcohol outstrips cannabis by 1,000 to 1. But du Fresne, like most alcoholics, sees the bottle as his little darling, never to be questioned, never to be sullied, above all criticism or blame.

“…it was the middle class that introduced society to the mind-expanding delights of drugs, but it’s mainly the underbelly of society that has had to live with the consequences.” With typical pisshead logic, du Fresne here blames the damage wrought by the War on Drugs on the drug users themselves. The middle-class hasn’t been as damaged by drugs because they haven’t been attacked by the Police or the Justice system to anywhere near the same degree as the working classes have.

It’s been known since du Fresne’s time that if a Police officer finds cannabis on a white middle-class person who speaks with a University accent chances are he’ll let them go with a warning, but if it’s a Maori or poor white person they get the hammer. So the “consequences of drugs” he talks about are the consequences of the Drug War, and nothing else.

Du Fresne’s delusional attitude to alcohol (the sure sign of an addict) shines through when he accuses the Drug Foundation, which presents factual research about the effects of drugs, of taking a “shrill line against alcohol”.

Never forget: to every pisshead, speaking the truth about the effect of alcohol is an unreasonable thing to do.

“But while there are valid arguments for decriminalisation of cannabis, and especially for its medicinal use, the reformers can’t ignore the baneful effects of drug use.” Why the fuck would any cannabis law reformer care about the baneful effects of methamphetamine, heroin, legal high, nicotine etc. use? None of those drugs have anything to do with cannabis whatsoever, so why are they lumped in the same category? And alcohol left out? It makes no sense at all.

“Neither can they ignore the risk that liberalising the cannabis laws will send the dangerous message that drugs are OK. They may be okay if you’ve got a university degree and live in a good suburb, but they’re not so liberating if you’re a hungry kid living in a freezing state house where any surplus money goes on P rather than food or heating.” Yes, that sentence really was that stupid. Du Fresne essentially argues here that cannabis law reform is bad because some poor people spend money on P. It makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever.

“A good starting point for the debate might be a more honesty.” An honest conversation about the damage done to New Zealanders by drugs would start with one word.

Alcohol.

Why is this not mentioned?

The answer is this: Karl du Fresne is a complete and utter fucking whore, and the alcohol companies that advertise in Fairfax media are his pimps (he has many pimps, reflecting his total lack of shame). He propagandises for putting medicinal cannabis users in cages by using rhetoric that would be illegal if it was applied to Maori or gay people. All the while knocking back gallons of the drug that does more damage to New Zealand society than all others combined.

We don’t need boozeroos setting the cultural agenda for young people in this country any more. New Zealand needs to give a voice to the stoners and trippers among the young, and put Karl du Fresne, and his entire worthless generation of drug warriors and out-of-touch geriatrics, out to pasture.

Rain Spoils Absorbing Contest in Durban

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Second Day, First Test, Black Caps vs. South Africa in South Africa 2016

With South Africa 236/8 overnight, the BetFair market gradually came to the conclusion that the Black Caps were now the favourites leading into the second day of the first Test in Durban. South Africa drifted from $2.74 to $2.98 overnight, the Black Caps stayed the same ($2.88 to $2.92) and the Draw came in from $3.45 to $3.05, perhaps reflecting a bad weather forecast or the likelihood that bad light will take several overs of play time out of this match.

The opening session of the second day began with the new ball swinging around corners. Despite the assistance, the last wicket stand of Kagiso Rabada and Dane Piedt frustrated the New Zealanders, who were able to generate several edges that did not go to hand.

When Piedt was out caught at the wicket off a wider Boult delivery, with the partnership worth 27, the South African innings ended at 263. At this time it looked as if all three results were in play, with South Africa paying $2.98 and the Black Caps $3.30. 263 was not a big total but as the New Zealand seamers were swinging it viciously it looked as if conditions would be good for Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander with the ball.

They were – Steyn and Philander were at least as good as Boult was yesterday. Steyn accounted for both Latham and Guptill with superb bowling; Latham caught at slip and Guptill trapped in front.

A brief passage of intense cricket of the highest quality ensued as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor fended off an arsenal of swing and seam trickery from Steyn and Philander, but rain intervened to spoil the day, which ended with New Zealand at 15/2.

At this point, South Africa was paying $2.44, New Zealand $6.40, and the Draw was the favourite, perhaps in anticipation of more rain, at $2.28.

– DAN McGLASHAN

Boult Masterclass Helps Make it the Black Caps’ Day

First Day, First Test, Black Caps vs. South Africa in South Africa 2016

Pre-match odds had South Africa favourites at around $2.30, the Black Caps at around $3.80. The Black Caps went out slightly when South Africa won the toss and chose to bat, but not by much (to around $4.30), probably reflecting the degree of uncertainty around the pitch and weather conditions.

The Black Caps went with four seamers, appearing to agree with the argument presented earlier this week that Ish Sodhi offers less value than either Henry or Bracewell. They decided to go with Bracewell over Henry, possibly for the good reason that this is not a development tour.

Trent Boult was magnificent in the first session before drinks, taking the wicket of Stephen Cook with a perfectly placed ball that took the edge through to Watling. Boult bowled 8 overs for figures of 8-1 before drinks in a masterclass of accuracy. Southee and Bracewell were less effective, Southee struggling for rhythm and Bracewell looking rusty. At this point the Black Caps had gone out to $4.50 and the Draw had come in to $2.66.

Williamson shuffled his bowlers after drinks but Southee continued to bowl poorly, giving away too many wide balls outside off without building any real pressure. By lunch, South Africa were 94/2 with Hashim Amla looking imperious. He was on 42 off 41 balls with nine boundaries. There was no aggression from Amla, just waiting for bad balls and then hitting them hard into gaps. The Black Caps were paying $5.80 by this time, with South Africa in to $2.16.

The passage after lunch was marked by the intense battle between Amla and Boult, the best batsman and best bowler on either side. After Duminy was caught hooking off a Wagner short ball, Amla found the going much more difficult than before lunch, with Boult continuing to throw down accurate deliveries with excellent shape at a good pace. Eventually Boult dismissed Amla with a straight ball that swung in and took the inside edge through to Watling. At 131/4 at the second drinks break, the odds for the Black Caps had come in to $4.10, with the Draw fading to $2.86.

After the drinks break the second session was attritional, with only 15 runs coming off the last 14 overs of the session. Faf du Plessis was extremely defensive and ended the session with only 18 runs from 74 balls.

The moment of the third session, and perhaps the day, came just when it started to look like the redoubtable South African defence had started to tire the Kiwis. A wide half-volley from Neil Wagner was smashed by Faf du Plessis and cannoned towards the boundary until plucked from the air one-handed by a flying Kane Williamson at gully with a catch that Chris Harris would have been proud of.

This left South Africa 160/5 and the odds for the Black Caps were then $3.55, still the outsider but lower than at the start of play.

The third session continued with a South African counterattack, with Temba Bavuma and Quentin de Kock taking on the Black Caps bowlers. Their aggression was checked by a Mitchell Santner double strike, with de Kock caught slogging in the deep and Bavuma out trying to sweep an arm ball that had him lbw.

From that point it seemed that the South African innings was in its death throes, with Philander out chipping Wagner tamely to mid off. Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn were left when bad light stopped play, after 77.4 overs, with South Africa 236/8. Perhaps surprisingly at this point, South Africa were still favourites, paying $2.74 to the Black Caps’ $2.88 (the Draw was $3.45).

The player of the day was probably Trent Boult, narrowly over Neil Wagner, with Hashim Amla in third place. The play of the day was definitely Kane Williamson’s screamer at gully to dismiss Faf du Plessis.

Neil Wagner’s bowling average is now under 30, and with Southee looking insipid (his 18 painful overs going for 63 runs with no wicket) it might be that Boult is now clearly the leader of the New Zealand pace attack. Boult looked far more dangerous than Southee today and on another day could have had five wickets.

The Black Caps will look to take care of South Africa with the new ball tomorrow and then bat until the close of play.

– DAN McGLASHAN