March 8-12 2017
Start time 11.00am local (2200GMT)
Moonda: South Africa’s quicks could heat up Dunedin
The Big Picture
This match-up has a one-sided history. New Zealand have only won four Tests against South Africa and two of those came in 1962 when they shared a rare five-Test series 2-2. Since then, they won the first meeting after readmission, at Johannesburg in 1994, and their only home victory was inspired by Chris Martin at Eden Park in 2004.
South Africa also plunged New Zealand towards their most recent nadir. At Newlands in early 2013, they were bowled out before lunch on the opening day. Nothing so one-sided is expected this time. Since South Africa last visited for a Test in 2012, New Zealand have only lost one series on home soil, against Australia last year.
For their part, South Africa have been one of finest touring sides in the last decade with last year’s defeat in India being their first overseas since Sri Lanka in 2006. They overcame Australia late last year (although given subsequent events that feels a lifetime ago) and despite New Zealand’s strength on home soil, start the series as favourites.
The key will be whether New Zealand can put enough runs on the board because in Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner they have the bowlers to put pressure on South Africa. It should be a series of quality pace bowling with Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander leading the opposite line.
(completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WWWWL
South Africa WWWLW
In the spotlight
Tom Latham and Jeet Raval will face one of their toughest challenges: seeing off Rabada, Philander and Morne Morkel. Latham’s confidence has to have taken a knock after his horror run in ODIs which saw him lose his place. Raval has played just four Tests, although showed impressive composure against Pakistan before giving away a few starts against Bangladesh. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are the key to New Zealand’s batting, but they have a better chance if not exposed to the new ball too soon.
Two of South Africa’s batting engine room, JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma come into the series under a little scrutiny but for different reasons. Duminy regressed during the one-day series, scratching around and wasting starts when he made them, but elevated his Test game against Australia and Sri Lanka. Bavuma, meanwhile, made just 21 runs in five innings against Sri Lanka so he could do with reviving memories of England at Cape Town and Australia in Hobart. The latter, given likely conditions, could be relevant.
Williamson kept the door open for two spinners, but it is also Colin de Grandhomme verses James Neesham so it would be a major surprise if they omitted one of the three frontline quicks.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Jeet Raval, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Colin de Grandhomme/James Neesham, 9 Neil Wagner, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult
Faf du Plessis confirmed that Morne Morkel will play his first Test in more than a year, being preferred ahead of Duanne Olivier. They will also play a specialist spinner in Keshav Maharaj.
South Africa (probable): 1 Stephen Cook, 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Temba Bavuma, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Kagiso Rabada
Pitch and conditions
This is the first Test surface for a new University Oval groundsman, but New Zealand don’t expect much different to normal. Dean Elgar termed the pitch “juicy” two days out but local knowledge from Neil Wagner indicated that the temperature was as important to the amount of movement on offer. The forecast for the first three days is good, but the weekend isn’t too promising at the moment.
Stats and trivia
- Excluding series involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the New Zealand win-loss ratio against South Africa is the joint lowest in history alongside West Indies against South Africa.
- University Oval is New Zealand’s only unbeaten home venue. They have won three and drawn four at the ground. The final day of the 2012 Test against South Africa was washed out.
- Williamson’s average as captain of 55 is the best by a New Zealand skipper, fractionally ahead of Martin Crowe.
- The captain winning the toss has bowled first in New Zealand on 22 consecutive occasions. The last time a captain batted first was Daniel Vettori against Pakistan, at the Basin Reserve, in 2011.
“I don’t get ahead of myself with silly ideas like that. We want to have a look at the surface, it can change. We don’t want to delve into that before we have any outrageous thoughts.”
Kane Williamson isn’t getting ahead of himself about what to do at the toss
“With slower conditions here, our strongest team is the balance of three seamers and a spinner. If the wicket is slow, your spinner does become important.”
Faf du Plessis explains South Africa’s selection
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo