CENTURION, Apr 18 (Reuters) New Zealand, set 249 to win, were in desperate trouble at 98 for seven after being ripped apart by South African pace duo Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini on the fourth day of the first test.
Steyn, playing in his fourth test, took three for 35 on a day shortened by bad light and drizzle. He offered steady support to paceman Makhaya Ntini, who took four for 41 today for nine wickets in the match.
Opener Hamish Marshall stood firm on 24 not out when play ended nine balls after tea. Daniel Vettori was 18 not out.
''We only need three more wickets and it only takes three balls, and the way the deck is playing it could be the first three balls tomorrow morning,'' Steyn told a news conference.
''(However) it could go to tomorrow afternoon, they showed in the first innings that they can bat all the way to number 10.'' South Africa resumed their second innings on 280 for nine and were dismissed for 299 in the eighth over of the day.
Ntini struck twice in three balls in the third over of New Zealand's second innings when he had Peter Fulton caught behind by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher for four and Kyle Mills taken at first slip by Boeta Dippenaar.
Mills was presumably promoted from number 10 to shield New Zealand's middle order from the new ball on a pitch of inconsistent bounce.
''We looked up at the dressingroom stairs and there was Kyle Mills,'' Steyn said. ''He was coming in to be a new-ball watchman, or something like that.'' VISITORS SLUMP The visitors slumped to 17 for three in the eighth over when Stephen Fleming, who scored six, edged a delivery from Steyn to Jacques Kallis at second slip.
Two overs later Steyn had Scott Styris caught behind for two. Eight balls after that, the Black Caps were 26 for five when Nathan Astle prodded a delivery from Ntini to AB de Villiers at third slip to be dismissed for two.
In the third over before lunch Jacob Oram, who scored 133 in the first innings 327, became the first New Zealander not to fall to a catch in the arc behind the wicket when Ntini uprooted his off-stump with a ball that kept low.
New Zealand went to lunch on 34 for six, and bad light delayed the start of the second session by 85 minutes.
Marshall and Brendon McCullum took their seventh-wicket stand to 45, the biggest of the innings, before McCullum edged a ball from Steyn to Dippenaar at first slip.
McCullum faced 38 balls and hit two fours and two sixes in his aggressive 33.
''We were confident this morning, we thought we could chase down anything under 250,'' Vettori told a news conference.
''I'm not saying we're completely out of the game, but being 28 for six doesn't help our cause.'' REUTERS AY RN2131