New Zealand and South Africa will square off in the second Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington this week.
Following the rain-affected draw in Dunedin, New Zealand and South Africa will turn their attention toward the beautiful Basin Reserve in Wellington for the second of three Tests.
With reports emerging from New Zealand of a green wicket, the Proteas’ quicks will be licking their lips after the turner at the University Oval. Can the visitors take advantage of the conditions or will the hosts spring a surprise against the ever-improving South Africans? Let’s take a look:
New Zealand vs South Africa | Thu 16 March – Mon 20 March | Basin Reserve, Dunedin
To Win Match
New Zealand 24/10 | Draw 11/4 | South Africa 9/10
The Black Caps put in a really good display in the last Test against the Proteas. They probably could have fashioned an opportunity to win too, had it not been for the stubborn resistance of Dean Elgar and some of his middle order teammates.
That said, reports coming out of Wellington seem to suggest that there will be plenty of grass covering on the wicket at the Basin Reserve - although plenty of that will likely be cut away before play commences. The news broke after the covers were lifted for the first time in four days of constant rain to reveal a wicket that resembled the Kingsmead of old.
This will worry Mike Hesson slightly, for obvious reasons. “I don’t think we really want to be playing South Africa on a seamer-friendly surface.” And who would? With the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Duane Olivier in the Proteas’ squad, the last thing you want as a batting unit is a pitch that assists the seamers.
New Zealand have also been rocked by injuries to Ross Taylor and Trent Boult. While Taylor’s calf strain has ruled him out of the second Test, Boult will be monitored in the three days leading up to the Wellington showdown before a decision is made.
Neil Broom has been called into the side as cover for Taylor, who will be bitterly disappointed to miss out on his hometown Test. More worrying, however, is if the reports of the pitch are correct, Hesson could be without one of his premier quicks on a seam-friendly deck. Boult is world class and will be desperate to prove his fitness for this Test. Very few teams in the world can effectively fill a Boult-sized hole - his absence could be massive.
The South Africans put in a determined – if not spectacular – performance against the New Zealanders in the first Test at Dunedin. Elgar showed exactly why he is the best long format opener in the country at the moment, helping himself to 229-runs in difficult batting conditions.
His powers of concentration were pushed to the limit, with his match strike rate of 41.78 indicating just how tricky it was to bat in Dunedin. He’ll need to shine again this week, especially if the rest of the top order fail as they did in the first Test.
Where the top order struggled, however, the middle order came to the fore with Faf du Plessis and Temba Bavuma both recording half-centuries. There was also another big performance at Test level for Keshav Maharaj who continued to impress with his maiden five-wicket haul.
The Hollywoodbets Dolphins off-spinner may well be a victim of the Wellington surface, however. If reports are to be believed, we could see Olivier come into the side for Maharaj with JP Duminy forced to turn the arm over a bit if a bit of spin is required.
Looking ahead, I wouldn’t tinker too much with the squad at the moment though, despite the temptation to bring in either Heino Kuhn or Heinrich Klaasen for one of the current top order strugglers.
One thing is for sure though, I’d definitely be playing with four seamers if the wicket is as conducive to seam bowling as we’re led to believe it is. The visiting batsmen should also be a lot more comfortable with conditions in Wellington as opposed to the Dunedin turner.
Verdict: South Africa 9/10
The wicket and news that New Zealand could be without two of their best players will give the South Africans all the confidence that they need going into this match. Back them to come out on top at 9/10 here.
Value Bet: Highest first innings opening partnership: New Zealand 11/10
You just always get the feeling that one of South Africa’s opening partnership will get out early on in the piece. While Elgar looked imperious in Dunedin, he could get well done early on in Wellington.
Both have a few technical issues that can be exploited by the Black Caps’ seamers. While it's by no means a banker (with New Zealand's openers struggling a bit themselves), it's certainly worth a tickle at 11/10.