New Zealand and South Africa clash at the University Oval in Dunedin in the first of two Tests.
Following their dramatic 3-2 win in the One Day series, South Africa will once again don the whites as they prepare to tackle the Black Caps in a two-match Test series.
Will New Zealand bounce back from the disappointment of the ODIs or can the Proteas continue where they left off against Sri Lanka in January? Let’s take a look below:
New Zealand vs South Africa | Tuesday 7 March – Saturday 11 March | University Oval, Dunedin
To Win Match
New Zealand 2/1 | Draw 28/10 | South Africa 9/10
There are a couple of interesting battles that are likely to unfold in the first Test, the most intriguing of these, however, will be how well New Zealand’s top order faces up to the South African seamers.
Rumours coming out of Dunedin over the last 24 hours or so seem to indicate that there will be very little grass covering on the deck at the University Oval. This should make life easier for the New Zealand batsmen whose ability to bat through four sessions has been called into question in the lead-up to this series.
There are also some pretty big question marks surrounding the opening pair of Jeet Raval and Tom Latham. The former has only played four Tests while the latter is stuck in a pretty terrible run of form. So bad is Latham’s form in fact, that he’s only managed 60 runs in his last six List A and ODI matches.
Having said that, though, he is considered more of a five-day player than anything else and his 40.37 average in the longest format of the game is a lot better than his limited overs average. He, along with the vastly experienced Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor will need to play properly good innings to keep the hosts in the hunt.
Bowling wise, I think Mike Hesson will be happy enough. Trent Boult and Tim Southee are two of the best in the world while Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme can both play the support role equally as well. Hesson also has the luxury of being able to call on two specialist spinners in Mitchell Santner and Jeetan Patel.
All in all, New Zealand will need a properly good batting performance to stay in touch with South Africa in this Test. There may well be a bit of grass covering on the first day or two before betting gets easier. The toss will be important here. Williamson will likely want to put the South Africans in to give Boult and Southee a chance to exploit the minimal grass covering early on.
The Proteas will no doubt take confidence from their 3-2 win in the recently concluded ODI series. That said, I still think out Test outfit is a lot stronger than either of our limited overs sides.
Key to the Proteas’ chances of victory will be the performance of the quicks. Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada will both be in the side while there are rumours doing the rounds that Morne Morkel could get into the side ahead of Duane Olivier.
One thing is for sure, there will only be room for four specialist seamers with Keshav Maharaj expected to get through a ton of work as he did back home against Sri Lanka. With Rabada and Philander pretty much guaranteed places in the side, it’s left to Olivier, Morkel, Parnell and Chris Morris to fight it out for the final place.
Batting wise, I think the side picks itself, really. Stephen Cook and Dean Elgar will open things up with Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock making up an incredibly strong top and middle order. Depending on which seamers crack the nod, we could see the visitors batting right the way down to 10.
Verdict: Draw 28/10
A bit of a left-field call, but I think that this match has all the makings of a high-scoring stalemate. This was the case when the sides met last in Dunedin, with both first innings concluding for fewer than 300 runs before batting became easier in the middle and latter stages. See that scorecard here. Expect to see something similar this week.
Value Bet: To be updated when markets are released