Captain Brendan McCullum’s (centre) decision to bat first against South Africa at Newlands was also not taken well © AFP

Wellington: Jan 3, 2013

New Zealand’s struggling cricketers were labelled “clueless” after they were shot out for  45 in a horror show against South Africa — the lowest Test score in nearly four decades.

Kane Williamson was the only batsman to reach double figures in Cape Town during a humiliating day for the Black Caps on Wednesday, as the home side piled up 252 for three to establish an iron grip on the series opener.

It was the third lowest score in New Zealand’s history, after their world record low of 26 against England in 1955 and 42 against Australia in 1946, and the smallest total seen in Tests since England skittled India for 42 in 1974.

“Utterly embarrassed — again,” said New Zealand’s Radio Sport, amid widespread condemnation of the inept performance.

The “shameful 45” was “an utter sporting embarrassment,” said broadcaster Martin Devlin of TV One.
Newly installed captain Brendon McCullum won the toss and decided to bat on the green-tinged wicket at Newlands only to see the innings wrecked in just 19.2 overs.

South African seamer Vernon Philander finished with magnificent figures of five wickets for seven runs in six devastating overs, with quicks Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel sharing the other five dismissals.

Veteran cricket writer David Leggat called it the worst performance he had witnessed in 30 years of covering New Zealand cricket.

“After the batting shambles, the bowling wasn’t good enough, some of the fielding schoolboyish, and that’s being unkind to the youngsters,” he wrote in the New Zealand Herald.

It was New Zealand’s first Test outing since a captaincy row in which star batsman Ross Taylor was dumped as skipper in favour of McCullum.

With that decision causing national outrage and Taylor choosing to sit out the South African tour, Leggat said Wednesday’s debacle came at the worst possible time.

“New Zealand’s players needed to present a united front, to stand firm and fight to prove a point. Instead they melted away, like ice cream on a summer’s day.”

Fairfax Media correspondent Duncan Johnstone said the first innings disaster “represented total humiliation”.

“We knew they were bad, but few could have envisaged them being this bad,” he said.

The cricinfo website called New Zealand “clueless against high-quality pace”, and said there was a worrying chasm between the world’s number eight Test side and top-ranked South Africa.

“Scarily, that division is wider than should be acceptable or comfortable. They are in two different leagues,” cricinfo said.

Cricketworld website took aim at McCullum’s decision to bat first, saying he was “perhaps showing a degree of misplaced faith in his batsmen’s ability that has rarely been matched in international cricket”.

New Zealand now have the immense task of trying to salvage something from the first Test in the two-match series, with South Africa starting the second day 207 runs ahead and with seven wickets standing.