Taylor not daunted by South Africa's stars
If Ross Taylor was fighting with you, there is every chance you might not know it. He does not raise his voice, make exaggerated facial expressions or change his body language. He is far too composed for any of that.
It probably makes him the ideal leader for New Zealand as they prepare to take on a South African side that even the New Zealand public thinks they cannot beat. Taylor does not care for that kind of talk. He will not be wound up by suggestions that South Africa's gallery of stars will outshine his own. "We play international cricket and we've got a couple [of big names] on our side as well," Taylor said. "I'm sure they know about Daniel Vettori."
What about the overriding view that South Africa's battery of pace bowlers will outgun New Zealand's line-up, which will include two debutants in Rob Nicol and Kruger van Wyk? "We've played against some pretty fast bowlers in the past. It's nothing different," Taylor said.
Instead, it is South Africa that he thinks will be confronted with unfamiliarity that they should be wary of. "There are a lot of players in the South African team who haven't played much cricket and haven't batted in New Zealand conditions, which is completely different to batting in South Africa. We've got to use that to our advantage."
Five of South Africa's squad only arrived in the country on Thursday, including opening batsman Alviro Petersen, No. 6 Jacques Rudolph and wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. The trio would have had just two training sessions before the first match, although both Rudolph and Boucher have been to New Zealand before. Taylor said New Zealand could capitalise on any gaps in their acclimatisation. "A lot of their players haven't batted here and the lower order didn't get much of a bat [in the one-day series]."
Taylor himself has not batted since he retired hurt during his authoritative century against Zimbabwe in Napier, in January. A calf injury kept him out of the limited-overs legs of both the Zimbabwe and South Africa series and he did not get the chance to bat for Central Districts this past weekend because his side fielded first. He admitted that his first innings in over a month will be an anxious one. "I'll be a bit nervous," he said, "but a good nervous."
New Zealand were beaten 3-0 by South Africa in the one-day series but Taylor asked the team to draw on their Test form, which includes a win in Australia this summer. "It was disappointing to lose the [ODI] series, but what will be remembered in 20 or 30 years' time is how we play in this Test series. Test cricket is the ultimate. I guess after the win in Hobart we've captured the imagination of the country and we want to try and build on that."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent