New Zealand and South Africa conclude their all too short Test series in Christchurch this week when the second and final match begins on Friday morning local time, or late into the evening on Thursday for us who are in the UK.
New Zealand know that after last week they are unable to lose the series now but they go in search of a first ever series win over the Proteas. The tourists know in order to keep that fine undefeated record intact against the Kiwis they have to win this game.
After a slow start to their World Test Championship title defence, the champions of that particular competition have come good again and in the first match they reminded us just why they were able to get their hands on that trophy. They were emphatic with the ball in hand and put a good side to the sword when it was their turn to bat. At no stage in that opening match were the Kiwis in any danger of not winning which given their record against South Africa is quite something.
The crazy thing is that New Zealand did that without some of their star players, which showed that despite the relative shortage of players they have to pick from, they are forming a really good depth of quality to their batting and their bowling. That will make them very tough to dislodge as Test champions. That is evidenced by the fact that a win here will take New Zealand to the top of the rankings in red ball cricket.
Having beaten India in the fashion that they did, South Africa will have been disappointed in the way they surrendered in the first game of this series. They were outplayed although as ever at this time a lot of that was down to the short notice and the lack of a warm up match and things. They will undoubtedly want a better showing here and if they don’t come up with it then they are going to leave with their tail between their legs.
The big improvement needs to come with the bat. Any side who gets bowled out for 206 across two innings aren’t going to win any matches at this level. It is a little hard to make a balanced assumption on their bowlers because they were defending absolutely nothing in the first game. They will want an improvement too although the score of 482 was imbalanced by a last wicket stand of 94. South Africa are a proud side though so they should come out fighting here. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.
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Trent Boult missed the opening game of the series as he was on paternity leave. He has returned from that but hasn’t got many miles in the legs so New Zealand are expected to go in with an unchanged starting XI.
You would imagine South Africa will make changes for this match given the need to win it to take something from it. Glenton Stuurman didn’t make the best impression on debut so Lutho Sipamla could come in for him.
Neil Wagner was fairly quiet in the shadow of Matt Henry and Tim Southee last week but he still put up a score of 109 performance points so I’m a little surprised that he has a line as low as 99.5 for this second match. He very rarely goes two matches without contributing strongly in the wicket column and it would be a surprise if South Africa play the swinging ball as badly in this match as they did in that first one.
Wagner only took three wickets in the first game but even an upgrade of just one from that would mean he will only need 20 runs to get the performance covered in this match. He showed as nightwatchman last week that he is more than capable as a batter against this attack so those 20 runs aren’t beyond him, especially over two innings should South Africa bat better. I fancy he’ll play a much greater role with the ball though so I’m happy to be on him to cover this performance spread.
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