Earlier in the summer when the Black Caps were dispatching Pakistan and Bangladesh plenty of supporters were optimistic about their chances of success against South Africa.
The optimism has proven to be misguided.
The limp Black Caps second innings effort brought back memories of collapses past and illustrated the gulf between the teams – especially when you take Trent Boult and Ross Taylor out of the home side.
Can they save their season and the series in Hamilton?
A calamity in Wellington has seen the Black Caps slip behind in the series and left facing a series defeat to South Africa for the 6th consecutive series.
From a position of strength early on day two, the Black Caps collapsed spectacularly to lose by 8 wickets. They gave up a 91-run first innings lead even though they reduced the Proteas to 94-6 at one stage, and managed just 171 in their second innings.
The loss followed a first up draw in Dunedin and means New Zealand need to win in Hamilton to salvage a home season that looked promising after wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh but is now bordering on a disappointment.
Trent Boult is fit to bolster the bowling stocks. He’s overcome a groin injury, which leaves New Zealand with a tough decision on whether to drop both allrounders (Neesham and de Grandhomme) or Tim Southee again to accommodate a second spinner.
There’s no reason to make any changes to the side that won at the Basin Reserve. The only concern for the South Africans will be the form of Stephen Cook who has put together just 17 runs in four digs thus far.
Over the last years, Tom Latham has looked the best test opener in New Zealand, but his horror run of form since Boxing Day has seen Jeet Raval overtake him as the most important man at the top of the New Zealand order. The patient left-hander has two half-centuries in the series thus far and looks a good tip to top score at $5.50. We’d like him to turn those fifties into hundreds, though – like he does at domestic level.
Keshav Maharaj has been described as steady, a grinder, a fighter in the press and by his own team in media comments this series, however, influential might be the more appropriate term. It’s not often spinners play a major part in New Zealand test matches, but Maharaj has 13 wickets at 13 in the series even before playing at Hamilton where it’s actually expected to turn. He’s paying $5 to be the top bowler for his side in the first innings.
New Zealand – $6.50
Draw – $1.66
South Africa – $3.20
*All odds from Bet365.
Given the forecast, it’s hard to see anything other than a draw in the final game of the New Zealand summer. While the Black Cap’s Basin Reserve collapse show anything is possible with them involved, it seems a draw is inevitable. The punters and bookies both agree.