The South African cricket team finds itself in a position which it is not accustomed to, at least in recent years, where it is expected to win the series against New Zealand or at least be slight favourites, something that will not be easy to do even if New Zealand are missing key players.
New Zealand meanwhile have yet to win a Test series against South Africa so they definitely have incentive even if they are weakened with no Kane Williamson available. With that in mind, I look at who the significant players are on both sides as well as some stats on the two teams that provide you with a bit of background, such as their respective recent form.
He has been leading from the front off the field for a good few years now but he is now also doing it with his captaincy. The team will be leaning on him because he is the most experienced and one of only a few who have played in New Zealand. The last time he was there his last two scores were 140 & 89. If South Africa is going to win the series, they will need Dean to be in the runs, as he was there last time in New Zealand. It is all about seeing off the new ball and creating a foundation for Dean in this series and if he does that South Africa will do well.
Rassie van Der Dussen
The glue of the side is the best way to describe Rassie. He has been the guy that South Africa have relied on when the situation has become difficult for the team. The New Zealand bowling attack is a good one and South Africa will need Rassie to put out fires, as he did against India recently. His 40 in the 2nd test and 41*in the 3rd test against India were far more important than the numbers themselves suggest. Both insured South Africa did not collapse and went a long way to sure up the series win against India. If he can get starts in New Zealand, expect to see runs from his bat in this series.
He is the best pace bowler in the South African bowling lineup and will be expected to perform on pitches where spin is not expected to do the talking. While there were spells where he went missing against India, when it mattered and the series was very much on the line he answered and superbly so. He does not have the greatest record against New Zealand but being more experienced and with no Kane Williamson or Ross Taylor to bowl to, he should have a better time of it this time around.
Tom is a particularly important individual to the New Zealand team and in recent years has cemented his place at the top of the order for the team. Like Elgar, he is not flashy in his shot-making but his strength is in blunting bowling attacks until they become tired. He is also the leading run-scorer in Tests at the Hagley Oval having played in every Test at the venue with 864 runs at an average of 57.60. With no Kane Williamson or Ross Taylor, there will be more emphasis on him to score runs in this series.
Playing against some former teammates will be something Devon is looking forward to. At 30 and with a Test batting average of 69.22, Devon understands his game very well and has taken to Test Cricket like a duck to water. If he sees off South Africa’s new-ball bowlers, he could be dangerous for New Zealand. What is also in his favour is the fact that the last time he played a Test at the Hagley Oval he scored 109.
While a lot may be expected of Tim Southee in this series, with his experience and using his skills to his advantage, the truth is Kyle will also be crucial. His ability to get genuine pace and bounce off a good length will be an asset that could work to his team’s advantage. He is still relatively new to Test Cricket with only 12 Tests but his record at Hagley Oval, where both the Tests will be played is incredible with 22 wickets at an average of 13.36.
NZ v SA Tests in New Zealand
20 played, SA won 8 NZ won 1 Drawn 11.
Recent Overall Form
South Africa have won 6 of their last 10 Test matches.
New Zealand have won 6 of their last 10 Test matches.
New Zealand have played only nine Test matches at the ground since December 2014 and have lost only one game.
In 2013, resource consent was granted for four retractable lights to be installed at Hagley Oval, which was later changed to consent for six permanent lights in response to continual improvements to broadcasting standards. Approval for the lights was finalised in 2019 and a loan was secured from the Christchurch City Council in May 2020.
In November 2020 the six 49m-high lights were installed, making Hagley Oval the only cricket ground in the South Island with “broadcast quality” lighting. The first match utilizing the lights was on 10 January 2021.
South Africa Test Squad
Dean Elgar (captain), Temba Bavuma (vice-captain), Sarel Erwee, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Zubayr Hamza, Kagiso Rabada, Ryan Rickelton, Lutho Sipamla, Glenton Stuurman, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne (wk)
New Zealand Test Squad for First Test
Tom Latham (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Cam Fletcher (wk), Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young
*Trent Boult may well be back in the squad for the 2nd Test.
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