South Africa are backing their pace attack to snap New Zealand’s unbeaten run at Dunedin’s University Oval when the first Test starts on Wednesday.
After surveying a typically green New Zealand wicket and learning the Black Caps have won three, drawn four and lost none of the seven Tests on the ground, opener Dean Elgar said Monday: “It’s something for us to try and correct.”
“It looks a bit juicy,” he added of the wicket, warning that South African quicks Vern Philander and Morne Morkel were likely to be a handful.
Philander has 32 Test wickets against New Zealand at 15.53, and Elgar expects he will again be a central figure.
“I’m glad he’s on my side and I don’t have to face him with a new ball,” Elgar said, while adding of Morkel: “I’m glad I just have to face him in the nets.”
Morkel has played little cricket since suffering a back injury four months ago but is still set to figure in the South African line-up alongside Philander and the impressive Kagiso Rabada.
South Africa go into the Test series on the back of beating New Zealand 3-2 in the recent one-day international series, where Rabada topped their bowling figures.
New Zealand coach Mike Hesson believes his batsmen will need “real courage and skill” to handle Rabada, who bowls at speeds of more than 140 kilometres per hour (87 mph).
“He has an easy action, so he can sustain that for long spells. He has a quick bumper and he can swing it. It’s a pretty good package,” Hesson said.
“They’ve got a number of different options whether they want bounce or seam and obviously Vernon Philander in New Zealand conditions has been exceptional, he’ll be a big challenge for us as well.”
– ‘Going to be very tough’ –
There is a look of fragility in the New Zealand batting line-up, with opener Tom Latham having a horror run in the three ODIs he played against South Africa and Henry Nicholls struggling at number five apart from a 53 and 98 against Bangladesh in January.
Hesson said there was pressure on the whole side.
“South Africa in a Test series is tough, whether it’s here or away,” he said.
“Our record against South Africa, and anyone’s record against South Africa in the last four or five years, suggests it is going to be very tough, and we’re expecting that.”
South Africa have played at University Oval once before, five years ago, when Philander and Morkel took six wickets between them in New Zealand’s first innings.
The match ended in a draw when rain washed out the final day with New Zealand 137 for two and needing a further 264 to win.
From that 2012 Test, only Philander, Morkel and Hashim Amla return for South Africa, while then captain Ross Taylor and now skipper Kane Williamson play for New Zealand along with the new ball pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Southee and Boult made little impact in the 2012 match but dominated the last Test at University Oval, taking 10 wickets between them when New Zealand beat Sri Lanka by 122 runs two years ago.