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Bat, ball, keeper, spinners: how South Africa and New Zealand stack up

Both are coming off home series wins, although Bangladesh made New Zealand work harder than Sri Lanka did to the South Africans. How do the two sides stack up across five key disciplines?

Top order

New Zealand Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Kane Williamson
South Africa Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla

With a relatively new opening combination followed by a star player at No. 3, both sides shape up similarly in the top three. However, with Tom Latham's form slump - albeit in a different format - and the brevity of Raval's career, South Africa edge it. Cook and Elgar bedded in well against Sri Lanka (whose pace bowling was their best suit on the tour) while Amla ended a run of 10 innings without a fifty with a gritty 134 in testing conditions at the Wanderers. Williamson averages 55 as captain, although that was bolstered by his start against Zimbabwe and, he has yet to play a defining first innings as skipper. His team need him to in this series.

Middle order

New Zealand Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, James Neesham
South Africa Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma

Taylor and du Plessis are the main figures in this area, although Duminy bookended South Africa's recent spell of Test cricket with terrific hundreds in Perth and Johannesburg. Nicholls has shown some promise (he had the vast shoes of Brendon McCullum to fill at No. 5) but technical question marks remain, and No. 6 feels too high for Santner if New Zealand stick with the balance they had in the second Test against Bangladesh. Bavuma has a highest score of 21 in his last seven innings, so there could be vulnerability there.

Wicketkeeper-batsman

New Zealand BJ Watling
South Africa Quinton de Kock

These are two contrasting but equally impressive cricketers. While de Kock could take a game away from you with Gilchrist-like aggression, Watling can win one with grit and pugnaciousness. But it has been 13 innings since Watling passed fifty while de Kock's Test average is over 50 and is the second-highest for a gloveman with a minimum of 15 Tests. Watling may just edge it in the glovework stakes.

Spinners

New Zealand Mitchell Santner, Jeetan Patel
South Africa Keshav Maharaj

Likely to play more of a supporting role, both Santner and Maharaj have fitted that bill well for their captains. Neither have a major haul yet, but their economy rates are under three an over. Maharaj's role is especially important because South Africa don't have a fourth seamer and he allows the frontliners to rest. South Africa have, though, fielded four frontline quicks in recent times. New Zealand have also included Patel but twin spin attacks are rare on home soil. Perhaps in Hamilton for the third Test.

Pace/seam bowling

New Zealand Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Colin de Grandhomme
South Africa Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell

It could be a tough series for batsmen if this lot find their grove. New Zealand's main three are set in stone and it's Wagner who has emerged as a trump card. He is their leading Test wicket-taker since the start of 2016 with 51 wickets at 22.33. The South African quicks feasted on Sri Lanka during the home series and the opening duo of Rabada and Philander should be as challenging as anything served up by the Australians last season (and perhaps more so given they were missing Mitchell Starc) or Pakistan this summer. Behind those two, however, lies some uncertainty. Morkel is returning from a severe back injury while Olivier, Morris and Parnell have eight Tests between them.