South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 March 4, 2012

Martin looks ahead to fast-bowling duel


Chris Martin is ready to go head to head with Dale Steyn in what he has dubbed "the battle of the swing bowlers," in the upcoming Test series between New Zealand and South Africa. Martin warned batsmen on both sides that they will be caught in the crosshairs of a furious fight between the quicks operating in favourable conditions.

With an unusually wet, windy and cold summer it seems the weather gods have done half the job and Martin said New Zealand's attack should be able to do the other half. Two of the three Tests being played at what Martin calls "swinging conditions," in Dunedin and Wellington, places where he expects New Zealand's attack to thrive. "The success of all our bowlers will probably improve in swinging conditions," he said.

Even though South Africa have the world's top-ranked Test bowler in their arsenal, Martin believes that New Zealand have the strength to match that and the other elements of the hosts' varied attack. "If you've got a left-armer [Trent Boult] and you've got a couple of guys who swing the ball away and myself who brings it back in, I think the balance is there to test techniques," he said. "When you put Daniel [Vettori] into the mix as well it covers a lot of the bases South Africa also cover."

It could all add up to a toxic combination for batsmen, who will have to brush up on their cautiousness more than their cover drives, according to Martin. "It should be a challenging series for batsmen if we get the wickets right," he said. "If there's any moisture in the air, the pitch will always have something in it."

New Zealand have expressed interest in creating increasingly seamer-friendlhy pitches as they look to turn their four-pronged attack into a permanent feature. Almost everyone in the South African camp, from bowling coach Allan Donald to Steyn to limited-overs captain AB de Villiers, have welcomed the move, saying it would work in their favour as well.

South Africa are fresh off preparing green mambas of their own over the summer as they beat Sri Lanka. Although their batsmen also find the going tough on spicy surfaces, it's a battle they've fought many a time and have shown no fear of being asked to fight it again. Martin said New Zealand are aware of, and in some ways in awe of, that ability.

"They [South Africa] have probably been one of the better sides over the past five years. Their consistency is something we have to aspire to as a Test-playing nation," Martin said. He is not wrong. South Africa are the best travellers in world cricket over that period and have shown few signs of fragility abroad.

Martin is one of very few who has seen their weaknesses first hand. His 44 South African scalps at an average of 24.59 are the most wickets he has taken against any country. They have also come at a significantly better rate than his overall average of 33.33. At home, his record against South Africa is even more impressive. In two Tests in 2004, Martin claimed 18 wickets at an average of 16.66 against them, including 11 in the Auckland Test.

He hopes the recollections of those returns will act as motivation for the coming series. "It's about looking back on how I've played against them in the past. That will bring some good memories and some good, positive vibes," he said. "The series is more about revisiting those memories."

Edited by Siddarth Ravindran

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Francois on March 5, 2012, 11:19 GMT

    Please man this guy is almost 38, playing while into his retirement, and still have not taken 250 wickets.

  • Dummy4 on March 5, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    @ kiwi-jake Twice as old yes, twice as good never. Just look at their records. Martin is a very good bowler and will trouble the SA batsmen, but if there is some swing around Steyn will create havoc. He swings the ball both ways at real pace. If Martin is really as good as you say, surely he should be ranked in the top 10 at least.

  • Dummy4 on March 5, 2012, 6:50 GMT

    Another Kiwi with lots to say before a series. Don't you ever learn?

  • Simon on March 5, 2012, 4:03 GMT

    Martin is one of the most whole hearted bowlers in the game. He just keeps charging in, and when he is on he is really on! It all really depends on the support he gets, and I believe that he doesn't have much. Sth Africa are the superior team, in batting and bowling. However, that does not mean it will be easy for them. If SA's top order fails, they find it hard to regroup. Despite the brilliance of Steyn, Morkel is a mixed bag and Philander is still very inexperienced at this level. SA should win this series, but NZ won't go without a fight, and if NZ do win, I believe Vittori will be the difference.

  • Jacob on March 5, 2012, 2:14 GMT

    Martin is twice the bowler Steyn is.

  • Ben on March 5, 2012, 0:31 GMT

    I don't think there is much doubt that Steyn is the superior bowler. He is handy enough with the bat too, which is definitely not something that Chris Martin can lay claim to. I think South Africa should win the series fairly comfortably. NZ should be proud of themselves if they manage to win one of the tests like they did against us (Aus).

  • theo on March 4, 2012, 23:10 GMT

    SA to win, in a one-sided series. Unfortunately for all fans concerned. And, FYI to some earlier commentsi... Steyn has an EXCELLENT record in India.

  • hayden on March 4, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    i dont doubt nz can take 20 wickets with their seamers. what i do doubt is that they have a batsman that will make enough runs. south africa can rely on a de villers or amla or smith or kallis to play an innings of worth to put runs on the board. who will do it for new zealand against styen, morkel and philander? 20 wickets will be achievable for both sides its who can stand up and bat out a couple of sessions against the grain that will win the match.

  • j on March 4, 2012, 22:13 GMT

    In their last series, there wasn't much between New Zealand and Australia, Australia maybe just coming out the better team if you forget the 29 all out or whatever it was.

    The South African bowlers, with the ever brilliant Steyn, should pose a real threat. I'd back Philander on those tracks too. But with New Zealand's excellent seam attack in Bracewell/Southee/Martin, we could be in for some low scoring matches.

  • Bilawal on March 4, 2012, 21:22 GMT

    I think SA is very strong team and i can only see them as proper No1 team in the world because they are strong in every department plus past few years they have good record all over the world. NZ is good team but i think SA will win the series so good luck to both sides. But i would like SA to win and be No1. From Pak fan

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