Despite a solid home summer of cricket, where they’ve dispatched Pakistan and Bangladesh with ease, New Zealand start as underdogs in the three test series against South Africa starting Wednesday in Dunedin.
They’re up against it because they have never beaten South Africa in a test series, managing to draw only three of the fifteen series’ the teams have played against one another (four wins).
New Zealand was completely outplayed when the team last met in a test series. Hosted in South Africa, the Black Caps were pasted by 204 runs in the second test match at Centurion after the first match was rained out.
The series loss proceeded further losses in South Africa in 2013 (both games lost by an innings, including the infamous test in which New Zealand was bowled out for 45 after Brendon McCulllum replaces Ross Taylor as captain).
Closer to home, a 2012 series was won by South Africa one-nil. That series largely remembered for a gritty coming of age hundred by Kane Williamson to save the game in Wellington.
New Zealand (probable):
1 Tom Latham, 2 Jeet Raval, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Colin de Grandhomme/James Neesham, 9 Neil Wagner, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult
New Zealand has the option of playing two spinners in Dunedin with the inclusion of Jeetan Patel in the test squad. The canny off-spinner had success in the ODI series but may still miss out if the Black Caps prefer the three main quicks. Jimmy Neesham is also in the squad as an all-around option and will compete with de Grandhomme for a place in the side.
South Africa (probable):
1 Stephen Cook, 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Temba Bavuma, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Kagiso Rabada
More Morkel returns to top level cricket to complement Rabada and Philander in the pace attack, while Maharaj is the one spinner.
Neil Wagner’s 41 wickets in 2016 put him, surprisingly, in the top ten wicket-takers for the calendar year. A whopping ten more than New Zealand’s next best (Trent Boult), Wagner became, out of nowhere, the Black Caps most important bowler. Capable of bowling long spells of obnoxious short pitched bowling, Wagner will again be combative and dangerous in this series.
If the New Zealand batsman found Kagiso Rabada difficult to face in the ODI series, where he led the wicket-takers, just imagine how tricky they’ll have it surviving seven over spells of his unrelenting accuracy. With more match fitness than Philander and Morkel, he’s the key strike bowler for the Proteas.
New Zealand – $3.25
Draw – $4.50
South Africa – $1.90
*All odds from Bet365.
University Oval has seen four draws in the seven games the ground has hosted. That could be on the cards here too with a bad weather bomb impacting the North Island of New Zealand and potentially drifting down the country. We’re favouring the draw.
Ross Taylor averages 78 from 6 matches at University Oval; it’s the best record for New Zealand batsmen at the ground so he could be worth a look at $5 to top score.
University Oval can get pretty flat, meaning Neil Wagner’s short pitched filth could be needed. Take a punt on him at $3.5 to lead the wicket takers if you think he’ll do well against his fellow countrymen and is over his recent finger injury.