South Africa v New Zealand second Test preview

On Friday England’s first ODI against India starts two hours before the second South Africa v New Zealand Test. Even from an English standpoint it’s a bit tricky to know which one is more important. England have already played ten ODIs against India in the past 18 months and have five Tests coming up against New Zealand, so how the Kiwis try to fight back may give a hint of what England can expect starting in March. Plus, England’s recent record in ODIs in India means that the Test might be a closer contest.

The pitch in Port Elizabeth looks like it will make any comparison difficult, however. It has tended to be rather slow in the past and by all accounts it still is. It may actually be closer to the pitch on which England will be playing in Rajkot than the pitch on which they will play in Dunedin. It’s slow enough, in fact, that New Zealand are considering a second spinner for the match after dropping Chris Martin and there is a decent argument for doing so. South Africa actually don’t have a good record at the ground, they’ve not won a Test there this century, and it may be that a bit of extra turn will be their undoing. New Zealand are playing three seamers either way (though I suspect Colin Munro has likely been picked to shore up the batting as much as anything else) so a second spinner is probably a reasonable decision. Bruce Martin does not have great first-class statistics, but they aren’t appalling and I expect they came almost entirely on pitches more conducive to seam bowling.

South Africa don’t appear to be considering a second spinner, though given that said spinner would likely be Imran Tahir it isn’t a surprise. Robin Peterson hardly inspires fear, but he is the best option. Their only change will be the return of Rory Kleinveldt in place of the injured Vernon Philander. Whilst it is a good chance for them to try to develop their bowling in depth, it looks like a fairly big blow as Kleinveldt did not impress in the two Tests he got in Australia. South Africa do need him to step up though. Not so much for this particular Test, they can afford a bit of a let-up, but for the upcoming series against Pakistan. They look to be much tougher opposition and South Africa need to make sure they have someone to back up the main three quicks.

South Africa are still strong favourites in this Test, of course, but New Zealand do have a chance to come back well. They have not changed their batting from the last Test and they will need to perform rather better, but they are boosted by the fact that the pitch will give the South Africans less assistance this time and by the absence of Philander who did most of the damage in the 45 all out. I don’t expect them to win, but I do expect them to compete this time and perhaps push for a draw. I expect that South Africa will put up a fairly large total in the first innings (regardless of who wins the toss), so a lot will depend on how New Zealand’s batsmen can build on their second innings performance from Cape Town. I hope that they do bat better; I want to see a contest. But I suppose if it gets too one-sided I can always turn back over to the ODI…

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