New Zealand v South Africa, 3rd Test, Wellington March 22, 2012

Chance for New Zealand to restore faith

23

Match Facts

March 23-27, Wellington (Basin Reserve)
Start time 1030 (2130 GMT)

Big Picture

Sportsmen are taught Aristotle's philosophy of "one swallow does not a summer make," in an attempt to ensure they don't get carried away by isolated performances. Most of the time, it's a sensible way to assess results. The Wellington Test match could be one of those times when it isn't. It is the concluding chapter of the summer for both teams, and will serve as a decent indicator of where each of them are after a season of hard graft.

For New Zealand, a fightback and a victory will end their season on a high after it started, filled with promise against Australia and sprinkled with authority over Zimbabwe. New Zealand were careful to treat their whitewash of Zimbabwe with sobriety and not read too much into the results, knowing that South Africa would be tougher opponents. Just how tough, only emerged later.

Since winning the first T20 on February 17, New Zealand have been on the back foot. Even the drawn Test in Dunedin was thought of to have meant more for South Africa as it would have required a record-breaking effort from the hosts to emerge victorious. Wellington was where New Zealand started the series, with a victory, and they look to end it here with victory as well.

South Africa will use the New Zealand tour as a springboard to the rest of their travels this year, which include a top-of-the-table Test clash against England and a series in Australia. They cannot lose the series, which will keep their record as world cricket's best travellers since 2007 intact. In almost every department, bar their first innings showings with the bat, South Africa have looked a complete unit. Morne Morkel said they feel ready to play "the perfect Test match," which involves one massive innings and bowling the opposition out twice. If they get that right, they will leave New Zealand with having achieved everything they set out to do.

Form guide

(most recent first) New Zealand LDWWL
South Africa WDWLW

Players to watch

Daniel Flynn last represented New Zealand in December 2009, in the middle order. He will make his comeback as an opener, coming off three consecutive first-class centuries. Although the batting line-up should not depend entirely on him for an improved showing, they will certainly be looking to him for a solid start. New Zealand's highest opening stand in the series so far has been 16 and Flynn will need to combine with Martin Guptill for many more runs than that if he hopes for a longer stint in Test cricket than Rob Nicol had.

He is the bowler almost everyone is talking about and Vernon Philander cannot seem to put a foot wrong. Philander has collected 15 wickets in the series so far, at an average of 14.33, and if he takes five in the Wellington Test he will be the fastest South African to 50 Test wickets and the fastest for almost 116 years. Philander should continue to make use of subtle seam movement and exemplary lines but it will be interesting to see how he deals with the fierce winds at the Basin Reserve.

Team news

New Zealand will include a sixth specialist batsman to prop up their line-up. Nicol was dropped from the squad after the Hamilton Test and Flynn will open in his place. Dean Brownlie has recovered from a broken finger and will slot in at No.6, meaning that Daniel Vettori and Kruger van Wyk will drop one place lower. The new-look batting card will mean New Zealand are forced to leave out one of their seamers and field a three-pronged attack consisting of Chris Martin, Mark Gillespie and Doug Bracewell.

New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daniel Flynn, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Kane Williamson, 6 Dean Brownlie, 7 Daniel Vettori, 8 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Mark Gillespie, 11 Chris Martin

Graeme Smith confirmed that there is unlikely to be any changes to the South African XI. Marchant de Lange, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, JP Duminy and Robin Peterson will continue to serve drinks.

South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 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

The Basin pitch was ready to play on four days ago as the groundstaff anticipated wet weather in the lead up to the match. The sun came out on Thursday though, giving the curator Brett Sipthorpe a few hours to allow his surface to dry. He uncovered it for the first time since Sunday and revealed a patchy looking surface that started to even out the more it was rolled. It is being talked of as a good cricket surface, with enough in it for bowlers and batsmen alike. The match could well be interrupted by rain, with scattered showered forecast for the weekend. Conditions will be made more challenging by the strong northerly wind which is set to blow across the ground for the first two days.

Stats and trivia

  • New Zealand's highest partnership was scored at the Basin Reserve, a 467-run third-wicket stand between Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones in January 1991.
  • Mark Boucher is five dismissals away from completing 1,000 dismissals across all formats in the international game

    Quotes

    We're one-nil down in the series we know that were not far away from competing with this side. We've been on top in a few situations we just haven't been able to ram it home.
    Ross Taylor hopes New Zealand can play to their potential in the final match of the series

    I'd like to see us keep that curve going up. We'd like to round off with a comprehensive performance in the next five days.
    South Africa want to leave New Zealand on a winning note, as Graeme Smith emphasised

    Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

    Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

  • Comments have now been closed for this article

    • Lermy on March 22, 2012, 23:35 GMT

      NZ have finally found the SA weakness... ...rain!!

      I remember turning up to a cricket ground in Palmerston North with literally one inch of water lying on the pitch, and some of the players were seriously arguing for us to wait and see if conditions improved enough to play. Fun times!!!

    • dummy4fb on March 22, 2012, 21:53 GMT

      You've got to agree with @SA_Scot. Also, there are many test playing nations who would give anything to have a player of Morkel's talent in their starting line-up. If he were that bad a player(which he isn't) the statistics would have showed him up a long time ago. He's consistently around the top 10 in world rankings. Lets put things in perspective and not let our bias affect our logic.

    • Patchmaster on March 22, 2012, 21:12 GMT

      @ WIlmott Steve Angers - I think you'll find that ENG has the best new ball atack in the World, SA is second bestm but still very good. Anderson, Tremlett, Bresnan, Finn - that's the World Number one attack.

    • Sombrehombre on March 22, 2012, 20:56 GMT

      As an NZ fan watching this series I have nothing but jaw dropping admiration (and jealously) for the South African attack. Not too disappointed with how NZ have played as we are competing here with the very best. We have managed to roll the best top order in world cricket on a couple of occasions and there have been some good showings from Tayor and McCullum with the bat. All in all good progress for NZ, considering how UTTERLY RUBBISH we were 2 years ago I am mucho happy. To South Africa fans, you team is scary good.. great contest coming up with England.

    • SurlyCynic on March 22, 2012, 20:34 GMT

      I predict a tanning. And not by the spectators.

    • dummy4fb on March 22, 2012, 19:55 GMT

      It is just not fair on Flynn to ask him to open against the best new ball attack in the world on his comeback game, NZ are in a real panic!!!!

    • dummy4fb on March 22, 2012, 19:30 GMT

      Duminy should seriously consider about migrating to NZ to try Test Match opportunities like Wagner, BJ Watling, Van Wyk. Both NZ and Duminy will gain from this migration!

    • binojpeter on March 22, 2012, 19:03 GMT

      I agree with all that Morkel is a key bowler for South Africa. He bowls with an average speed of 142kph with good line and length, has all deliveries in his stride and more importantly is a thinking bowler. He knows well to set up a dismissal.

    • dummy4fb on March 22, 2012, 18:53 GMT

      I wish Amla had a big hundred. 45 Ave. does not fit to his name. So far he has an ordinary performance in 2 tests by his name.

    • letsgoproteas on March 22, 2012, 17:04 GMT

      I hope SA come away with a win - If NZ tie the series it'll be another false story going into the record books. SA dominate but somehow don't get the results.

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