New Zealand v South Africa, 2nd Test, Hamilton, 3rd day March 17, 2012

Unstable batting hurting New Zealand

Bringing in an extra batsman would mean dropping one of the bowlers which could disturb a settled bowling attack. The problems stem from the top

The problem with a table that only has two sturdy legs when it should have six, is obvious. For an illustration, take a look at the New Zealand batting line-up. Without Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor they are as thin as a chiffon scarf and even with them, they're missing at least one layer of extra lining.

Balance. It's a term that's often used to describe the correct make-up of a cricket team. Most teams veer on the side of top-heavy when they are off balance, but New Zealand appear to have gone the other way. There is method in their four-pronged seam approach and intent that is laudable but the cost to the batting department has been severe.

One opener, Rob Nicol, has endured such a torrid time at the crease that his suitability to the longest form of the game is having serious questions asked of it. His partner, Martin Guptill, has hit a sudden slump after a golden run of form. All this means that McCullum pretty much has to face the new ball.

That leaves a situation where he has to fight it out and form a stand with Taylor in order for New Zealand to stabilise. Even if they do, they continually sit on the edge of the cliff, knowing that if one of their two mainstays gives way, it will expose the less experienced Kane Williamson. After him there isn't much in the way of specialist batsmen to come.

Against an attack the New Zealand team have themselves called the best in the world, expecting a sizeable total from a combination like that is a big ask. "With us having five batters they've come in and set pretty defensive fields so I think we've got to find a way of being able to try and rotate the strike and get off strike as well," Taylor said. "They're bowling a lot more maidens than us and I think that's an area we need to address as well with the ball."

South Africa sent down 33 maidens in their 129 overs across two innings, while New Zealand managed 21 in their 98 overs, which is comparably not much worse. What New Zealand did not do as well as South Africa was set fields that could allow bowlers to work to plans with the same precision Graeme Smith did or create the same amount of pressure through consistency of good deliveries.

Although New Zealand's bowlers are rightly proud of their effort in bowling South Africa out relatively cheaply in the first innings of both Tests, Taylor acknowledged that the batting failures have left the bowlers needing to do even more. "When we go in with that side we need to take 20 wickets and it does put a lot of pressure on the batsmen as well," he said.

The solution seems to present itself, New Zealand have to include an extra batsman to fix the lopsidedness of their line-up. The place for that batsman appears at the top, probably where Nicol has been occupying space which McCullum should be in so someone else can come into the middle order. Taylor said that would not happen. McCullum would be left at No. 3 "at this stage."

Dean Brownlie, who broke his finger against Zimbabwe, will have his first game back this weekend and if fit, could come into the side. Where he would fit in is unclear. Daniel Flynn, who has scored 461 runs in four Plunket Shield matches including two centuries in his last two games, is being talked about as a candidate for the opening berth and the only way to accommodate Brownlie would be to push Daniel Vettori to No. 7 and leave out one of the bowlers, which Taylor seems loathe to do.

"You've got to play aggressively," he said. "Without weather interruptions there's not a lot of drawn cricket in Test matches these days, especially in New Zealand. We have to play aggressively. We're one-nil down in the series and we have to try and draw the series. We're eighth in the world and we want to get up those rankings and you don't get up by drawing Test matches or losing."

His opposite number, Graeme Smith, hinted that aggression may be misplaced because it allows South Africa to sit, just gently on the table and break it. "They take that risk playing Dan (Vettori) as an allrounder at six. They play a lot of bowlers, four seamers and a spinner so they obviously take a more aggressive option with their bowling attack," he said. "That will weaken their batting. Their tail is an area we would like to get into and exploit."

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Timbo1 on March 18, 2012, 2:26 GMT

    Agree with FatboyscanBat about the proposed line up. It is all very well talking about the balance of the side but for NZ the real issue is whether we can field 11 players who are up to test standard. There is no point in selecting a batsmen (think Nicol) just because he is designated a batsmen unless he actually has a chance of succeeding. Frankly you might as well have opened the batting with Boult and would have gotten just as much out of him as out of Nicol. The problem is not having 5 or 6 batsmen. If we had 5 bats who actually scored runs we could get away with it but only 3 of them have actually made any kind of score in this series so far. Basically you need one bat to make a hundred in each innings. Sadly even if we selected a team of 11 batsmen I don't think we would achieve that..

  • Shongololo on March 18, 2012, 2:17 GMT

    I don't mean this to be unfairly critical of NZ but the batting has been very, very ordinary. Neither opener has a technique that will get them runs at Test level, you've always got a chance with McCullum because of his attacking approach, and Vettori is simply not a Test number 6. That leaves Taylor and Williamson as the only batsmen in the top six who have the technique to play there. Browlie has shown early promise, but the jury is still out on him. As for Flynn, making runs in a weak domestic competition counts for nothing in the bio league. As someone said, Guptil made big scores against the Bangles and Zim which, in the harsh klight of day, is about as 'impressive' as Flynn getting domestic runs (and Van Wyk, for that matter).

    No, NZ, your big problem is you cannot bat. Never have been able to do so, with perhaps the exception of Martin Crowe. Perhaps a fair share of the blame should lie with your obsession with ODI and T20 cricket?

  • Lermy on March 17, 2012, 22:41 GMT

    NZ playing four seamers? How can you even describe Brent Arnel as a seamer? Now lets not suggest SA wouldn't still absolutely cream NZ every time, but some better selections would help. Mark Gillespie with just a few extra K of pace made a big difference. You gotta wonder what McKay did wrong not to get picked, since he can bowl at about the same pace as the SA quicks. I feel sure that there are better test batsmen in NZ than Nicol and Guptil. Enough of the converted T20 batsmen. We need technique and patience, not airy fairy shot making and ducking balls at stump height that could have been played comfortably off the back foot. I predicted a three day victory for SA at Hamilton, and I'll go out on a limb and say four days in Wellington, only because I don't think NZ could play any worse, though the present line-up are full of surprises. Its just about time for a new all time low test score!

  • NostroGustro on March 17, 2012, 21:47 GMT

    As much as i rate him, Dan the Man has to give up tests and go back to playing limited overs. He's a much bigger threat in the short forms and his presence in the test team is upsetting the balance if NZ want to continue with four seamers. As Cliff Hawkins rightly points out, the Hobart win was without Vettori... An extra batter at 6, Watling as 'keeper, then four seamers or 3 and Nethula who might actually threaten in a fourth innings.

  • dummy4fb on March 17, 2012, 20:01 GMT

    bring back Richardson.. or get some dour batsmen from India..

  • dummy4fb on March 17, 2012, 19:56 GMT

    Hate to say it... but the Hobart test was won without Vettori. Chuck him and Nicol out (sucks for Nichol but he couldn't take his chance) and bring back Brownlie & one other batter. Shame it can't be Ryder :-(

    Daniel Flynn is scoring runs in domestic teams that are missing their blackcaps bowlers. Why should we give a crap about that? Rob Nichol would be plundering runs too.

  • ihaq1 on March 17, 2012, 15:44 GMT

    when u have a good fast and seam combination that south africa have developed than u need a strong middle order...recently new zealand have been successful with four fast and brownlie...brownlie, vettori , flynn and bracewell probably could do a good job and they should pick their four best fast bowlers...obviously new zealand have not got a good opening combination...against SA the top three should be good players of fast bowling so try mcullum, williamson and the win against australia new zealand played four fast bowlers on a fast pitch...without a spinner...a spinner is not required if teh fast men can bowl out teh opposition..tell the top three to go after teh bowling and the next four to consolidate...vettori can be played as a has to create the mindset before teh match...batsmen who are'nt doing well should be dropped and new ones tried out until a stable combination develops...ryder and mcullum know they have to bat well for the team to win..

  • rupam1842 on March 17, 2012, 13:04 GMT

    This should be the line up - Guptill, McCullum, Ryder, Taylor, Williamson, Van Wyk, Franklin, Vettori, Guptill, Bracewell, Martin!! On both test Kiwis fought well on 1st innings. They need to back their bowlers & prepare a green track where the match gets over in two days. With williamson back in form batting looks quite solid.

  • abyrao on March 17, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    Brownlie must come in if he is fit to play. Both Nicol and Guptil should be out. Maybe Flynn can open and even Jamie How can be recalled. Also Vettori should move down to 7 and the keeper to 8. There was an extra bowler in the 2 tests. Bracewell, Martin, Gillespie and Vettori should share the load.

  • Tjoeps on March 17, 2012, 11:01 GMT

    Well written Fridosa. Just remember that only our bowling unit has arrived thusfar, some fair knocks from Smith, Amla & AB did happen, but you've ain't seen nothing yet! Nice to see Dale also getting some wickets, this is the beginning of greatness, of a Saffer team that will rock the world under the superb guidance of Gary Kirsten... Go the Proteas! Flower Power!

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