Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn took five wickets from 17 balls to spark a dramatic collapse.
Hamilton: South Africa strike bowlers Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn took five wickets from 17 balls and without conceding a run to spark a dramatic collapse that saw New Zealand dismissed for 185 on Thursday on the opening day of the second Test.
New Zealand slipped from a strong position at 133-2 to 133-7 between the 49th and 52nd overs as Steyn and Philander wreaked havoc with an aging ball, on a docile pitch and in their fourth spells of the day.
The collapse marked only the third occasion in Test cricket where a team has lost five wickets with scoring a run, and both previous instances involved New Zealand.
But by stumps veteran paceman Chris Martin had struck twice for New Zealand, removing captain Graeme Smith (13) and nightwatchman Steyn (4) to leave South Africa at 27-2.
Both batsmen fell to catches by South African-born New Zealand wicketkeeper Kruger van Wyk. Smith was brilliantly caught off an inside edge and Steyn off a regulation outside edge as South Africa reached stumps with Alviro Petersen 8 not out and Hashim Amla on 2.
Martin captured Smith's wicket for the eighth time in his career, more than any other Test bowler.
"It was a pretty bizarre day," van Wyk said. "It was a little bit stop and start and that partnership between (Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum) was really looking good until the rain came."
"We just lost a little bit of momentum there. It's hard to get out (of a collapse like today's). It takes a lot of fight against good attacks to get out of it."
McCullum (61) and Taylor (44), who had put on 89 for New Zealand's third wicket, became the first two victims of Steyn and Philander's mid-innings wicket spree, and Kane Williamson, Daniel Vettori and Doug Bracewell followed without scoring.
Philander and Steyn had both taken wickets in their opening spells after South Africa won the toss and bowled on a pitch and in weather conditions which deceived in their promise of early assistance for fast bowlers.
Philander dismissed Rob Nicol (2) when New Zealand were 11 and Steyn removed Martin Guptill (22) when they were 44. McCullum and Taylor weathered the next 29 overs with relative ease, guiding New Zealand to 62-2 at lunch and 94-2 at tea after the second session was shortened by rain.
They went on comfortably to 133-2 in the 49th over and Smith must have doubted more than ever his decision to send New Zealand in.
McCullum batted with almost painful discipline, taking three hours to reach his half-century and resisting the lavish strokeplay which is the hallmark of his game. He had hit only five fours on the way to his fifty, but then reached the milestone with a six off Morne Morkel and followed up a four from the following ball.
Having governed his attacking instinct for 194 minutes, McCullum was finally lured into a rash shot, hooking Steyn and to Jacques Rudolph at deep backward square after facing 133 balls and when New Zealand were 133-3.
Taylor also batted with prudence until that point, but immediately succumbed to a rush of blood and wafted his bat outside off stump to be caught by Smith at first slip off Philander.
Williamson lasted 13 minutes without scoring when he chased a ball from Steyn and was also caught by Smith.
Vettori lasted only three balls before he played over a straight delivery from Philander and was bowled. Bracewell survived three balls before he was caught by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher from Philander's bowling.
New Zealand's innings had simply fallen apart in fewer than three overs. After seeing off the threat of the new ball, building a basis for their innings, they crumbled in the face of hostile spells from South Africa's new ball pair.
Recalled fast bowler Mark Gillespie, playing on his fourth Test and his first in four years, broke the spell a little when he edged Steyn through slips for four to end the carnage with the score at 133.
He paid for that impertinence, receiving a barrage of bouncers but surviving to hit three fours and two sixes in an innings of 27, which contributed to a 43-run partnership with Van Wyk.
The New Zealand wicketkeeper was out for 21 with the total 176 — trapped lbw by Morne Morkel — and Gillespie followed eight runs later as one of two late victims of the legspinner Imran Tahir.
Philander finished with 4-70, taking his remarkable tally of Test wickets to 39 in only his sixth Test. Steyn took 3-49, bowling with real hostility for the first time in the three-match series.