Proteas aim to sustain pressure as history beckons for Black Caps
The first few days of the second Test between the undermanned South Africans, and the efficient New Zealanders in Hamilton will tell the players on both sides how quickly the tourists can learn from the numerous lessons dished out by the Kiwis a week ago.
Situated just over 100km south of Auckland, Hamilton’s famous for the local dairy industry, which has led to cow bells being a background note at major sporting events in that area, particularly rugby.
Given the bulk of the second Test, which starts Tuesday, will be played in the week, the volume on the cow bells might be toned down somewhat. It would be another new experience for the South African players, for whom so much in New Zealand, particularly on the field, is a trip into the unknown.
Ahead of the final Test in the first challenge for the Tangiwai Shield with South Africa, hear from carver David Ngawati about the design inspiration for the shield. The second Test starts on Tuesday in Hamilton. Read more | https://t.co/3cUIvbyygO #NZvSA pic.twitter.com/OtzICPrBvu— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) February 11, 2024
They were taught just how difficult Test cricket really is in a chastening four days at Mt Maunganui where they suffered a record defeat, but Neil Brand, the captain who performed better with the ball than with the bat in the first match, stated Monday, that the players were aware of the areas in which they erred at the Bay Oval.
“We have to do the right things for longer. We don’t want to lose wickets after a break or two wickets at a time,” said Brand who made 4 and 3 when opening the batting, but took eight wickets in the first Test, with his part-time left-arm spin.
Having taken their minds off cricket with some golf, both in Mt. Maunganui and on Sunday in Hamilton, Brand said the players had spent a lot of time reflecting on their performances in the first match. “For us it is about keeping things simple, we don’t want to complicate things too much.”
That was very much the hallmark of New Zealand’s play in the first. Nothing they did was superhuman. They were willing to absorb pressure with the bat, when Proteas bowled some good spells and followed that by their own efficient bowling strategy which targeted the stumps in the first innings and saw them gradually grind down Brand’s team.
We want a few more options. I felt we were really good with the new ball in the first Test, but we want a few more options from over 20 onwardsNeil Brand
They won’t veer too far away from repeating that in Hamilton, although there is talk they might add more aggression, either through Neil Wagner and his bouncers or Will O’ Rourke a lanky fast bowler, who is quicker than Wagner and also uses the bouncer proficiently. Tim Southee confirmed that the selection between those two was still being decided, but that Will Young would definitely replace Daryl Mitchell, who has to undergo rehab for a foot injury before New Zealand start a series against Australia next week.
Brand confirmed the Proteas would make a change with their bowling line-up too, echoing the opinion of head coach Shukri Conrad. “We want a few more options. I felt we were really good with the new ball in the first Test, but we want a few more options from over 20 onwards,” said Brand.
The most obvious would be to rope in Dane Piedt as the front line spin option. With a sunny forecast for the week in Hamilton, Piedt would come into the equation should the surface dry out as anticipated while the extra bounce being predicted by locals will also help the off-spinner who has nine Test caps to his name.
Arguably the strongest candidate for omission is Duanne Olivier who went wicketless in both innings in the first Test and worryingly bowled with very little threat. What was once his forte — the bouncer — is no longer a weapon, and by comparison with how New Zealand’s seamers used the short ball, Olivier was limp.
Whatever route they take, Brand is well aware, the challenge in maintaining SA’s unbeaten Test series record against New Zealand is a significant one.