Hagley says hello. Again …

South Africa’s bowlers can be trusted to bounce back, but where their runs might come from is anyone’s guess.

Telford Vice | Cape Town

NEW Zealand will need no prompting to try and repeat the feat they completed at Hagley Oval on Saturday. South Africa won’t be short of motivation to avoid that fate when the teams meet again at the same venue on Friday. Throw in the likely nuclear conditions and it’s difficult to see how the second Test won’t live up to the emphatic events of the first game of the series.

In a mismatch that lasted just seven sessions, New Zealand won by an innings and 276 runs. So anything except victory for the visitors this time will give the Kiwis their first series win over South Africa — the only side, of those they have played against, they have never beaten in a rubber. Not that the home side will be satisfied with a draw: another win and they will become the No. 1 ranked team in the world for the third time since January 2021.

Last week, the absence of Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Trent Boult from New Zealand’s XI — the first time they had been without all three of those stellar stalwarts since January 2008, or 117 Tests previously — was seen as a significant disadvantage against opponents who, in December, had rallied from 0-1 down to beat then top-ranked team India. The Kiwis’ trio of titans will be missing again this week, but that is now all but irrelevant.

Matt Henry’s 7/23 in the first innings and 9/55 in the match — both career bests for him — and Henry Nicholls’ 105, Tom Blundell’s 96 and Henry’s 58 not out more than made up for the loss of the biggest names of this generation of New Zealand’s players. South Africa’s response to the challenge was woeful in all departments. They were dismissed for 95 and 111, three of their five bowlers conceded more than 100 runs each with none claiming more than three wickets, and they dropped seven catches.

It’s conceivable that South Africa’s bowlers had an off day or two, and can be trusted to bounce back. But where their runs might come from in a line-up that crashed to 4/3 inside five overs in the second innings is anyone’s guess. Beyond picking the uncapped Ryan Rickelton at the expense of Aiden Markram, there isn’t much the South Africans can do to inject new blood into their batting order.  

How the visitors will find their way back from so far deep in the woods is thus difficult to fathom. They tend to talk a tough game about fighting back, but only once before in their previous 37 two-Test series have they managed to level a rubber after losing the first match. And they’re up against a New Zealand team who have lost only one of the 10 Tests they have played at Hagley Oval, where they’ve won the last three by an innings.

Normally there wouldn’t be this much looking back when we’re trying to understand what might happen in an imminent match. But that’s unavoidable in the aftermath of a game that was utterly and entirely one-sided, and especially as the teams will return to the scene of that non-contest.

In essence, it’s up to South Africa to perform exponentially better in every aspect mere days after they have suffered the second-heaviest defeat in their history. And it’s up to New Zealand to keep doing what they have been doing for too long for last week’s triumph to be considered a fluke.

If it seems the Kiwis’ task in that equation is eminently more achievable than the visitors’, that’s because it is. It’s never a good idea to write South Africa off, and that’s not what this is about. But even their least critically thinking supporters will concede that a series win for New Zealand is far more realistic than the South Africans levelling matters. A draw? In the still churning wake of last week, even that will take some doing.

When: Friday, 11am Local Time

Where: Hagley Oval, Christchurch 

What to expect: More sunshine this week, and throughout the match, according to the forecast, should translate into more benign batting conditions. But the seamers will still have more help than at many other grounds. 

Team news

New Zealand: Who would have thought Trent Boult’s continued unavailability — fatherhood for the first Test, this time because he hasn’t been bowling enough — could be cast as a good thing. But it is because it means Matt Henry, who matched Richard Hadlee’s 7/23 as the best performance by a New Zealander at home last week, is sure of keeping his place in an XI that will surely be unchanged.

Possible XI: Tom Latham (capt), Will Young, Devon Conway, Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Matt Henry 

South Africa: Aiden Markram, who hasn’t reached 50 in his last 10 innings, in which he averages 9.70, should be dropped. Ryan Rickelton, who has scored three centuries and a 90 in his five first-class innings this season, should make his debut. 

Possible XI: Dean Elgar (capt), Sarel Erwee, Rassie van der Dussen, Ryan Rickelton, Temba Bavuma, Zubayr Hamza, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Glenton Stuurman, Duanne Olivier

What they said:

“We always talk about how do we take 20 wickets, and whether some guy takes 15 of them it does not really matter a huge amount. It is about us trying to take 20 wickets and trying to find the best way of doing that.” – Kyle Jamieson, who took match figures of 3/43 in the first Test, no doubt hopes for more success this time regardless of that philosophy.

“We know our back is against the wall, and the only way we can get through that is to fight and throw that first punch. As South Africans, that’s what we thrive on. We are going to have to do that. It’s not ideal that we started slow but I think you will see a different energy in this Test.” – fighting talk from Sarel Erwee.

First published by Cricbuzz.

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Hagley says hello. Again …