Sport

Great expectations: South Africa vs. New Zealand, 2nd Test

By Ant Sims 10 January 2013

After New Zealand was crushed in the first Test at Newlands, things now move along to Port Elizabeth. The expectations resting on the Proteas will be high, and since they’ve lost the last three Tests they played at St. George’s, only a dominant performance will be good enough for the world’s number one ranked Test team. ANT SIMS previews the second Test.

South Africa’s home record over the last few years has been rather unconvincing. For a juggernaut on the road – a team that hasn’t lost an away series since 2006 – their performances on home turf have been somewhat frustrating. For a team of such power, they have underperformed, but things are changing now.

Last year, they beat  Sri Lanka 2-1 on home soil and went on to claim series victories away from home in New Zealand, England and Australia. Now, another opportunity beckons – a thrashing of New Zealand on home ground. 

The Proteas return to Port Elizabeth for a Test for the first time since 2007, and while the last three Tests they played there were lost, it’s a new side now, with new ideals and a newfound power and determination. 

A series whitewash beckons: on paper, South Africa trumps New Zealand in every way, and even with Vernon Philander ruled out of action for the second Test, the Proteas should still have more than enough in the tank to win convincingly.

South Africa’s reputation precedes it at the moment, and the expectations that come alongside are tremendous. Nothing but another demolition job will do, especially against such timid opposition.

It’s also crucial to maintain the standard associated with a number one Test ranking. The Proteas need to put the series to bed convincingly, since the English are hot on their heels – in fact, they’re just five points behind after that great comeback in India. A clean sweep will see the Proteas edge one more point ahead of England, with a series against Pakistan still to come. 

South African coach Gary Kirsten has often spoken about how he wants his Test team to be the best in the world, and while they are there now, they can’t simply languish in a luxurious bubble. If they  want to dominate Test cricket for the next few months, they need to seize the opportunities handed to them.

The top order looks in good form and the bowling unit looks well oiled, so for all intents and purposes, the Test at St. George’s starting on Friday is South Africa’s. If there ever was a time to send a message to the Test cricketing fraternity about their intentions, this is their best chance to do so. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Robin Peterson returns to his home turf, a wicket which is generally slower and lower and provides assistance for spinners, provided the wind stays at bay. The bowling all-rounder has looked in good shape since returning to the Test side, and if he can exploit both the weakness of the Black Caps’ batsmen as well as the conditions, he could be in for a good run at St. George’s. 

Martin Guptill, the man with two toes, had a good run in the warm-up match in Paarl before the first Test, scoring 42 and an unbeaten 68, but he flopped in the first Test in Newlands, even after his blistering century in the T20 match on this same ground. He’s a dangerous player and unlikely to falter twice. He might not go on to get a big score, as he does have the tendency to throw his wicket away, but a solid knock to help New Zealand build a foundation could very well be on the cards.

WEATHER FORECAST

Cricket simply cannot exist without rain, and are some drops forecast for the duration of the Test with the odd shower expected on the weekend. While the weather shouldn’t intervene too much, it does mean that the Test will probably go the full five days. DM

Photo: New Zealand’s BJ Watling plays a shot during the third day of their first cricket Test match against South Africa in Cape Town, January 4, 2013. Behind is South Africa’s Faf du Plessis. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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