New Zealand v South Africa, 1st Test, Dunedin March 5, 2012

Vettori insists New Zealand won't be pushovers


New Zealand will look to recent history and dig deep into their reserves of self-belief as they prepare for the first fixture in the three-Test series against South Africa. After losing both the Twenty20 and ODI series, their reputation, particularly among locals, has gone from being a side that will compete with and even beat their visitors to being a side that has little hope of either.

Daniel Vettori disagrees. "I think we probably can do it but we're going to have to be at the top of our game to have a chance," he said, carefully qualifying the can-do attitude of the squad. "We know we've got to play really well. When you're coming up against one of the top teams in the world that's the attitude you've got to take. It's similar to when we came up against Australia, who are one of the top teams, and we know that if we play well that we can beat them."

After their famous win in Hobart last year, New Zealand enjoyed a dominant home series against Zimbabwe but were unable to replicate it when facing South Africa. While Vettori stopped short of calling them the best team in the world, he said South Africa are "certainly up there." He acknowledged that the South Africa have brought with them a talented group of players who New Zealand will have to improve their game against to beat.

"We are trying to talk about ourselves and what our strengths are and what we can do to nullify their strengths," he said. "That's what we did so well in that Test against Australia and if we can stick to that then we give ourselves a chance. If we get caught up in how good the South African team is then we'll be in trouble."

The self-belief gained from beating Australia will serve as enough evidence to New Zealand that they can conquer top teams. At home, they should be able to do it with regularity and Vettori said they will draw strength from that as well. "We always play pretty well at home so I think we've taken a lot of confidence from that."

Dunedin's University Oval has only hosted three Tests but has served New Zealand well. They beat Bangladesh and Pakistan there and Vettori said the squad has fond memories of the ground. "It's been a wicket that New Zealand has enjoyed," he said. "We had a great Test match victory against Pakistan, who had an exceptional bowling attack, and we did well against West Indies before the rain came along. So it's a ground that the guys enjoy playing at."

With most of the talk revolving on factors that will motivate New Zealand, it may be fair to assume that the unit is disheartened by their recent performances. Vettori said the situation is not that dire. "I don't think spirits need lifting. It's just bringing some experience back into the side, particularly among the bowling, with Chris [Martin] and myself, and the batting with Ross [Taylor] coming back in. That makes a huge difference when you bring in close to 200 Tests."

Of the 207 caps that Vettori, Martin and Taylor have between them, Vettori accounts for more than half, making him New Zealand's most experienced player. Test cricket is now his sole focus after he stopped playing the limited-overs formats of the game and he feels the decision to narrow his focus will pay off. "There are obviously a few sides to that, one of which is playing more four-day cricket," he said. "But you also don't show your wares to the opposition team in the one-day or T20 series, which is normally before the Test matches. Although I've played a long time and played against these guys [South Africa] quite a bit, hopefully I'll bring a little bit of a surprise element in that I haven't played them in this tour."

South Africa will also have some surprises up their sleeves, with five players who were not part of the first two legs of the tour joining up with the Test squad, but Vettori said New Zealand have prepared. "With the new guys who we haven't seen a lot of, the likes of [Imran] Tahir, not a lot of guys have faced him before so we've done a lot of work around that."

Edited by Siddarth Ravindran

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 7, 2012, 21:21 GMT

    @Mob_King on (March 05 2012, 13:37 PM GMT) Vettori is a class above Tahir IMO but by the same token the SA pace attack is far superior to NZs or pretty much anyone's for that matter. Interestingly Spelele's post is very similar to yours - coincidence?

  • John on March 7, 2012, 10:12 GMT

    Re SA/Eng. Someone else posted the records on another thread. What I would say is that in the main Eng are a far better home side and SA are better travellers on the whole. If you look at SA's recent 3 confrontations vs Australia , they beat Aus in Aus and lost and drew against them in SA. I'm an Eng fan and would not begrudge SA taking over the number 1 mantle and if they bt NZ 3-0 they become number 1. I think they may not ww NZ to do so though and if they do it will be more likely be due to Eng slipping up in SL or SA winning a tight series in Eng. NZ also have a point to prove as so many lambasted Aus for letting that series slip and NZ will want to prove that it was as much NZ being good as Aus being bad

  • Johan on March 6, 2012, 18:52 GMT

    Daniel Vettori's bowling average is 33.65 runs per wicket in comparison to Jacques Kallis bowling average of 32.5 runs per wicket, but you don't hear comments saying Kallis going to bowl out NZ...NZ best chances are with their fast bowlers.

    I think NZ best chances are to prepare some spicy wickets and hope they knock over the top order cheaply to expose the SA tail. Then make some runs to get ahead and hope to bowl SA out again. If they play on more placid wickets they going to get slaughtered imo.

  • Aadil on March 5, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    @Mob_King: Dude, what are you comparing performance of England with SA. SA has played badly only in Srilanka and have been performing well in both Pak and India.

  • Tony on March 5, 2012, 15:19 GMT

    I think it is going to be very interesting to see what side SA field. One feels that 4 seamers + Tahir would be the way to go, though it makes for quite a long tail if Boucher is coming in at 6. I suspect we will see Smith, Alviro, Amla, Kallis, AB, Rudolph, Boucher, Philander, Steyn, Morkel, Tahir. If the pitch is a turner, swap Rudolph for Duminy. That still makes a solid bowling lineup with Kallis to bowl if needed

  • Steven on March 5, 2012, 15:18 GMT

    Haha well put Mob_King. We all know we're ranked at the bottom of the pile for a reason, but I still believe this summer is a turning point in New Zealand test cricket. Vettori is a fantastic bowler and I don't think you would have too many SA batsmen arguing that fact.

  • Jack on March 5, 2012, 13:37 GMT

    Along with England, SA are amongst the poorest non-subcontinent players of spin. If Vettori plays, he will rip through this lot. While I have a lot of respect for Tahir, he just isn't at the same attacking level as Vettori . His defensive methods are accurately revealed in his poor record against NZ, and his poor overall strike rate. He would struggle to make it to NZ's second XI with the likes of Vettori, Nethula, N. McCullum etc. being way more attacking (and thus miles ahead of him). I admire the whole 'we won't be pushovers' attitude but realistically speaking, SA's chances are about 1/100.

  • Dummy4 on March 5, 2012, 12:25 GMT

    Black Caps are gonna be demolished. Their batting cannot play likes of Philander,Steyn,Morkel,De Lange and Tahir. Thats accuracy,swing,bounce,seam,pace and quality spin. RSA have the best and most versatile bowling in the world and NZ batting is nothing worth writing about. RSA also have De Villiers,Amla and Kallis who are world class bats. NZ dont have a single impact player who can turn the game on its head. All the best to both teams but its barely a contest. Proteas are clearly overwhelming favourites.3-0 to SA

  • Steven on March 5, 2012, 11:23 GMT

    Best of luck to the Black Caps! Do we have chance against such a strong SA side? You bet we do, 4 seamers + Vettori, Taylor back, and Guppy in a good form. Our fielding needs to improve though and our concentration levels are going to have to be better than they've ever been. I think we need Ryder in the test side as 400 will be a minimum first up total and I don't think we can get it without him. We know we can do it, lets hope we finish the summer like we started it.

  • Nazim Ismail on March 5, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    Daniel vettori is a tremendous bowler and batsman, I sincerely suggest that he comes at 5 or 6 and not lower than that. SA has good batting line up and fantastic bowling side, each of the bowlers looks like taking at all times when they come to bowl. NZ will find it very difficult to win against them, a draw would be great achievement

  • No featured comments at the moment.