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November 9, 2000
New Zealand may be no nearer to configuring their frontline attack for the Test series against South Africa after the three-day game against Boland ended in a draw on Thursday, but, as coach David Trist acknowledged, at least two of the backup bowlers did their causes no harm in Paarl.
The match wandered along to its inevitable conclusion in the early evening as Boland, set to make 357 in the last session, pottered to 53 for two before the game was called off 30 minutes early.
Summing up, though, Trist said: "There were encouraging signs from one or two of the bowlers. That's something we can take out of this game."
In particular, all-rounder Scott Styris and legspinner Brooke Walker, who might not have been in the frame a few weeks ago, have both wandered into it.
Styris scored an unbeaten 73 in the New Zealand first innings and backed it up with three wickets as Boland replied while Walker bowled tidily in the Boland first innings for two for 38 and took the last wicket of the game on Thursday evening.
"Nobody's a certainty," said Trist, "but certainly he (Styris) advanced his claims. He offers a batting/bowling option that's worth looking at. I don't think he's there yet as a batter or a bowler at Test level, but it's demanding times. He had a very good game and threw down the gauntlet and the challenge and may well sneak in. But he would have to back up the performances here to show that he really is deserving of a place."
Trist allowed that strengthening the New Zealand batting down the order "is a key to our success or survival" in the Test series.
The coach had encouraging words, too, for Walker, who now seems to be New Zealand's only spin option with Paul Wiseman's sprained ankle likely to keep him out of the first Test.
""I thought Walker had a good game," said Trist. "He bowled well, got nice drift and basically used conditions that did not suit him quite well. But this was a warmup game. It's not South Africa."
Of the three seamers given a run in Paarl, Chris Martin emerged as the man most likely to share the Test new ball with Shayne O'Connor, with three wickets in the Boland first innings and another on Thursday evening. But New Zealand will look again at their pace options in the three-day game against North West in Potchefstroom that starts on Saturday.
As an exercise, Trist seemed happy with the Boland game, despite the tedium of the final day, played out in sweltering heat. He feels that Potchefstroom will provide conditions similar to Bloemfontein, where the first Test starts on November 17, and says the last warmup match will be "critical" to New Zealand's preparations.
And even though in one sense New Zealand's cruel run of injuries may have made selection for the Test match more straightforward, Trist said that the business of choosing the side would still be "harrowing".
"It may be a bit simpler," he said. "But it doesn't take the stress out of the whole thing, does it?"
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