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The Preview by Firdose Moonda in Hamilton
March 14, 2012
The tone for the series was set in Dunedin with a competitive match being cut short by rain. The result, or lack thereof, has left the series on a fairly even keel heading into the second round. Both sides insist they felt in with a chance of winning the first one. Although the experts believed South Africa were more likely to take eight wickets on the final day than New Zealand were to score 264 runs, both teams believe they had momentum on their side.
In sport, particularly a Test series, it's a clichéd but important thing to have the pendulum swinging your way because it dictates the mood of the camp. In this case, the two teams each think the advantage lies with them, which should provide a hard-fought Test.
For South Africa, an early downer will be that the chance to claim the No.1 ranking and the $175,000 payout that will be made on April 1 is gone. But the opportunity to win a series away from home remains. As the best travellers in the game over the last five years, building on that trend will be vital.
They admitted to a concern with starting slowly, with Alviro Petersen saying the first day of the Dunedin Test "wasn't ideal for us". Now that they have found their stride, they want to keep it there. South Africa's big guns fired with the bat in the second innings, the bowlers did it in the first innings but the collective effort did not come together as quickly as they would have liked. Ideally, South Africa would want to score the same amount of runs in the second innings as they did in the first and give themselves enough time to bowl their opposition out twice, which Graeme Smith believes they are capable of doing.
New Zealand have more general worries. The coach John Wright spoke about the importance of taking 20 wickets and Ross Taylor has emphasised that the top five need to score the bulk of the runs because of the balance of the side. They seem to have accepted that the gulf between them and South Africa is reflected in more than just rankings - with the former at No.2 and the latter No.8 - but their determination to close that is evident.
Form guide(Most recent first)
South Africa DWLWL
In the spotlight
Having moved down the order, Brendon McCullum has taken on the key role of No.3 and appears to be enjoying it. He has shown his temperament can be suited to anchoring or being the aggressor. Having just come off a prolonged stint as captain during Ross Taylor's injury lay-off, McCullum has established his place as the senior statesman of the side, both on and off the field. If New Zealand are do to well, McCullum has to play a leading role.
Dale Steyn's lean patches are usually followed by destructive bursts. With more swing in the air than Dunedin and a pitch that looks like it could have something in it for the seamers, Steyn will have the conditions on his side in Hamilton. What will be interesting to see is whether he will have the mindset as well. Steyn bowled some unplayable spells in Dunedin, which remarkably didn't find the edge as often as he would have liked, a sign that his next blistering performance is not far away.
Rob Nicol will keep his place as one of the opening batsmen after a tough debut. McCullum will bat at No.3, where John Wright said he had been "pretty comfortable". The only question is who will replace Tim Southee and the choice seems to be between Brent Arnel and Mark Gillespie, who has not played Test cricket for New Zealand since 2008. Andrew Ellis, who could also bolster the batting, has the outside chance. Tarun Nethula, the legspinner who was also brought into the squad for this game, is unlikely to play.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Rob Nicol, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Kane Williamson, 6 Daniel Vettori, 7 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Mark Gillespie/Brent Arnel, 11 Chris Martin.
Injury may keep AB de Villiers out of the side after he sprained his ankle during practice on Tuesday, though he tweeted that he 'should be ready'. JP Duminy and Robin Peterson both batted in the nets on Wednesday and should de Villiers be unfit, Duminy is likely to make a return in the longest format. The rest of the line-up should be unchanged with Imran Tahir set to play, in anticipation of turn later on in the match, and Marchant de Lange to miss out, despite the green strip.
South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers/JP Duminy, 6 Jacques Rudolph, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir.
Pitch and conditions
A green pitch greeted the eye two days before the match and it remained that way on the eve of the game. The grass will likely be cut the morning of the Test, before the sun has had the opportunity to bake the surface too much. Talk is that it will be a traditional strip, with something in it for the bowlers on the first morning and friendly for the batsmen for the rest of the match. Heavy rain is forecast for the fifth day, Monday, which could mirror the first Test and the teams will want to secure a result before the heavens open.
Stats and trivia
"I haven't any messages from England saying thank you for stopping them. If we keep fighting like we did in Dunedin we'll be competitive."
New Zealand captain Ross Taylor said his team have not over-analysed preventing South Africa from becoming the top-ranked Test team
"Maybe the toss will play a more crucial role. The groundsman seems to think that it will brown quite quickly. Maybe it will have good carry throughout the Test, which would be good."
Graeme Smith would not be drawn into whether he would bowl first in Hamilton, but expects the toss to have a bigger say than in Dunedin
Edited by Brydon Coverdale
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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