South Africa v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth, 1st day January 11, 2013

Friends reunited on opposite sides

Neil Wagner found the going tough bowling to his old schoolmates on day one at St George's

A funny thing happened when Neil Wagner was reunited with his schoolmate Faf du Plessis. He overheard a little something that made him raise an eyebrow.

"I walked past Faf and he said to Hashim, 'should I rub my arm or something, maybe show that I was a little hurt' and I thought, 'hang on, did he hit it'," Wagner said. Du Plessis had just had an appeal for caught behind off Trent Boult turned down and New Zealand's think tank were considering a review.

"I thought maybe we should have gone upstairs when I heard that," Wagner said. "Then I asked Faf if he hit it and he said no so the right decision was made in the end." Hotspot replays showed that du Plessis had gloved the ball and would have been out on 42 had New Zealand referred the decision. When Wagner found out that was the case, he laughed it off as part of the game.

Today, Wagner discovered a few other things that come with playing international cricket against friends. "I always felt we were having a battle out there," he said. Wagner bowled to two former school friends, AB de Villiers and du Plessis who went to the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool with him and being on the opposite side was as hostile as he expected it would be.

De Villiers took 21 runs off the 23 balls he faced from Wagner, du Plessis 15 from 14. For both, a priority was not to fall victim to somebody that they used to know. "I told myself to just stick to the basics more than ever because I couldn't get out to him," de Villiers said. "I knew if I did it would be all over Facebook and Twitter and will probably go back to the school too."

Wagner was equally determined to make an impact. "I tried every ball to get AB out. He is a great bloke and a good friend and I love playing against him but I never want to give him anything," he said. "He got the better of me today, I think. To get his wicket would have been awesome."

Only as notable as getting du Plessis out perhaps, but Wagner did not manage that either. "There was an edge that Faf got off me, which went between slips and gully and he looked at me afterwards and he just apologised," Wagner said. "I tried to bump him in the next ball and he hit me for four again. He is a top player and you can't afford to give him any bad balls."

Wagner is not the only one who has nice things to say about the opposition. De Villiers is pleasantly surprised by the progress Wagner has made in the years since they left Affies. "He was two years younger me so I didn't see that much of him but I thought he was alright then, maybe not at that level yet," de Villiers said. "I never thought he would go that far but I missed the last two years of school where he developed a lot and I am very proud of him now."

That's where the friendliness ends. Affies is known for producing uncompromising sportspeople and both de Villiers and Wagner brought out their fighting talk. De Villiers warned that South Africa will look to bat big and possibly, only once. "If we go 500 plus, New Zealand will have the follow-on and all sorts of things to think about," he said.

Wagner is hoping for is a strong comeback from New Zealand in the morning session to ensure they don't let the match slip too far away. "If we let it go tomorrow, that's when a strong team like South Africa will capitalise. We let it slip a little bit towards the end today. Against a good side, you've got to be patient and create a lot more opportunities."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent