Cricket BallCan a series of unequals prove to be a contest?

It might be too much to hope that the South Africa-New Zealand Test series is hard fought, but both teams have little and big goals to pursue.

Firdose Moonda – ESPN cricinfo South Africa correspondent

Both Talksport and the Wall Street Journal blog list the Ashes among their top ten international sporting rivalries. Other inclusions are India-Pakistan clashes on the cricket field and the Bledisloe Cup rugby between New Zealand and Australia. South Africa does not feature at all.

They will not be happy about that.

South Africa consider themselves some of the fiercest, toughest competitors around even when they finish second best. They reserve specials spots for their southern hemisphere opponents, against whom two of the most hotly contested battles are fought. South Africa and Australia’s cricket teams have produced the gems that are the 438 ODI and the 47-all out Test, while the All Black and Springbok rugby teams made history on numerous occasions, most notably at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.

When the All Blacks play in Cape Town they have a healthy local support base. Mixed-race communities who have seemingly never felt represented by the Springboks have chosen to vocally support New Zealand rugby. You see them at Newlands rugby stadium, dressed in the New Zealand kit, waving the New Zealand flag and cheering on the visiting them as if it were their own.

Unfortunately for the New Zealand cricket team, they can expect none of the same support probably because, unlike their rugby side, they do not have the reputation to match the big talk. In fact, the current tour was considered such a non-event that the administrators were willing to cancel the Boxing Day Test and schedule three Twenty20s instead, in the hope of coaxing interest out of the locals.

They did better than that. All the matches were sell-outs; the South Africans now want to watch their own team. With the Test mace housed on Corlett Drive in Johannesburg and a proud unbeaten run on the road, there is belief that the South African team will now produce the same at home. Locals want to be there to see it.

That could be the saving grace ahead of what is expected to be a one-sided Test series. The facts make that statement realistic rather than disrespectful: New Zealand have only won three of the 21 Tests they’ve played in South Africa, two of those before readmission. The last time they won a Test series was the one-off against Zimbabwe in January 2011. Before that, they had success in a series against Bangladesh in 2010 (also one match) and twice in 2008, home and away.

If you’re looking for a team they earned a series win over that is not Bangladesh, you have to go back to 2006, when they beat West Indies. They have never won a series against South Africa, with their best result a draw at home in 2004.

With that in mind, this series could have very little to do with actual competition between the two sides. It will rather be a case of two teams running their own races. For South Africa, it will be about justifying their ranking and securing it. For New Zealand, it will be about surviving.

South Africa want to extend their lead at the top of the Test rankings and beating New Zealand will go a very small way to ensuring that. Even if they win the series 2-0, they will only gain one point on the table but it will open up their gap over England to six points and to 10 over Australia.

The series was also seen as a platform for South Africa to introduce new players, specifically a specialist wicketkeeper. The selectors, though, U-turned on giving Thami Tsolekile a tryout because AB de Villiers has changed his mind about taking the gloves permanently. Whether it exacerbates his chronic back conditions or not, de Villiers will keep in the series.

The only new player is batsman Dean Elgar, who made a pair on debut in Perth. He will replace Jacques Rudolph at No. 6 and be given an opportunity to see if his domestic form can translate on the international stage. Robin Peterson could also be considered in the new category as he only made a Test comeback less than a month ago. He will also have an extended run as the sole spinner in the XI. Rory Kleinveldt will play only if there is an injury to one of the premier seamers, although that looks likely at the moment with Vernon Philander nursing a hamstring strain.

New Zealand’s goals will probably be smaller and more individual-specific. They will want some of their top six batsmen to reach three figures, especially since the lack of big scores from them has been identified as one of the main reasons the team does not win more. They will want the bowlers to take 20 wickets, even if it’s in a losing cause. They may even just want to take both matches to day five, given that even their own expert, Simon Doull, suggested tickets would not be needed after day four.

Hopefully that will have raised the New Zealanders’ ire enough for them to prove that wrong. Brendon McCullum has the enormous task of being the only real senior batsman as well as leading the side. Martin Guptill is the other big hope, having had a good run of form last summer, and much will rest on the young shoulders of Kane Williamson. He will have to prop up the middle-order and resist South Africa even better than he did in Wellington in March.

New Zealand’s bowlers, like any quicks around the world, may look forward to playing on pitches with more bounce and carry than normal. They will not be getting the spicy surfaces of SuperSport Park or the Wanderers though, and will have to adjust to the more traditional cricket track at Newlands and the usually slow strip in Port Elizabeth.

Chris Martin has always done well against South Africa and he won’t want that to change. Doug Bracewell and Trent Boult have real opportunities to make a statement and if Mitchell McClenaghan is picked, he will want to show he belongs.

But wants may not come into it for New Zealand. They will have to focus on what they need to do to show that they have more character than was suggested in the lead-up to the tour. Although the Ross Taylor debacle was not the fault of any of the players, it reflected poorly on the state of New Zealand cricket as a whole. Perhaps unfairly, it is up to the team to change that.

It might be too much to hope that this series puts southern-hemisphere contests in the spotlight or gives South Africa a reason to appear on respected lists of sporting rivalries. That job is left to cricket against Australia and rugby against New Zealand. What could happen through this series though is, just as rugby against Australia is looked forward to, so could cricket against New Zealand.

18 Responses to Cricket: New Zealand in South Africa 2012 – 2013

  • 1

    Thanks GBS for the help

    If this article lands in the hands of a great Coach with good motivational skills he might just make a great difference in their mindsets.
    But the odds are stacked against NZ in this game, wish i could have said that before a Rugby game.

    SA have between 3 and 5 batsmen in the top 15 in the World(i might be wrong)
    We have at least 3 bowlers in the top 15
    We have one of the best All Rounders in Kallis
    We have a wicket keeper who is a top 15 batsman.

    I see the odds are 15 to 1 for a NZ win, anyone willing to bet more than R20-00 on that? I doubt.

  • 2

    There is no excuse for the Proteas not to smash and moer the Kiwi’s well and solid in the 5-Day Tests.

    We did not even field close to our strongest T20 side and won the Series.

    In the longer format, it should even be more pronounced, no hiding for New Zealand behind their 1 or 2 quality batsmen (Martin Guptill and Brendan McCullum). In the quicker format 2 quality batsmen can often pox a win against a clearly more superior side, but in the the long format, the more complete and more well-rounded side, should easily prevail.

  • 3

    Hope Kallis can break a few records, he is well on his way to be recognized as the Worlds best Cricketer ever.

    Sachin Tendulkar is clinging on in a attempt to stay ahead of the chasers. Ricky is gone now, Dravid retired too. I think the man in persuit is Kallis.

  • 4

    3 @ superBul:
    How old is Kallis now?

  • 5

    @ grootblousmile:
    Born October 16, 1975, Pinelands, Cape Town, Cape Province

    Current age 37 years 77 days

  • 6

    5 @ superBul:
    Dan’s hy nog BLOEDJONK… hy moet vir my en jou OOM sê… hehehe

    Hoe lank dink jy kan hy nog aangaan?

  • 7

    @ grootblousmile:
    Hy se nie veel nie maar almal bespiegel hy sal tot so 38 jaar sal aangaan , dalk byt hy vas tot die volgende Wereld beker. Hoeveel keer wil die man nog suffer. SA is soos NZ rugby met Wereldbekers

  • 8

    Dale Steyn is one wicket away from joining the prestigious ’300-wicket club’, of which three other South African bowlers, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini are already part of.

    And Jacques Kallis is 20 runs shy of becoming the fourth batsman in the world to amass 13,000 Test runs.

  • 9

    While Steyn is the spark in South Africa’s bowling, Kallis is the very heart, mind, stomach and head of the Test team. His own body has begun to feel the effects of 17 years of international cricket but he has achieved more than most ever will in that time.

    When the 13,000 comes up, Kallis will be the fastest to the mark in terms of number of matches. Cape Town will be his 159th Test, while Rahul Dravid got there in 160, Ricky Ponting in 162 and Sachin Tendulkar in 163 matches. Kallis would have played more innings than Tendulkar in reaching 13,000 and it seems Tendulkar is the only one Kallis cannot catch. With both Dravid and Ponting retired, there is every chance Kallis could pass them both and finish his career as the second highest run-scorer of all time.

  • 10

    Add to that that Kallis is the only one of the top 20 leading batsmen in the world who can be labelled a genuine allrounder and his status as one of the legends is unquestioned. He has often sailed under the radar with pundits reluctant to call him the best allrounder to grace the game but for Smith and South Africa, he is that and more.

  • 11

    “Everywhere we go now he is starting to get the due that he deserves,” Smith said. “We hope that he gets even more. He is an incredible player. I don’t think many people understand how immense getting to 13,000 runs is. South Africans will hopefully be very proud of him because he has put South African cricket on the map in a big way. He will go down as an all-time great and we can be proud of that.”

  • 12

    Can Kallis catch Tendulkar?

    This is how I see it

    Kallis is 4th
    Dravid is 3rd , 318 runs to catch him. Definitely on
    Ponting is 2nd , 398 runs ahead. I am sure Kallis will beat him.

    Both 2 and 3 has retired , so no more runs for them.

    The big fish Tendulkar is still playing and although he does not score dramatic scores , they all adds up.
    In his last 3 series he added some runs, against Aus 287, against NZ 63 and the last ENG 112
    This means he can still add runs. Currently the gap between Him and Kallis is 2665 runs, a lot, one would imagine Kallis would need 2 great seasons to catch the current target.
    Very unlikely, its all in his own goals he sets.

    Kallis so by the way scored in his last 3 series 119 vs NZ, 262 vs ENG and 339 vs AUS.
    He also scored at least one ton in each series.

    I am watching with abated breath how our champion cricketer manage his career, make us proud Kallis. Just do It.

  • 13

    I hope Kallis get some of the most prestigious records on his name.

    South Africa’s former Minister of Sport and Recreation Ngconde Balfour was recorded in the minutes of a 10 July 2002 meeting between himself, United Cricket Board officials and other sports figures about the state of South African cricket, as saying: “I do not go to Newlands to watch Jacques Kallis or Mark Boucher, I go to watch Paul Adams and Makhaya Ntini. Who is Jacques Kallis? Jacques Kallis means nothing to me.”

  • 14

    Uhm, please remember that the Protea’s lose when they are expected to win, almost every time.

  • 15

    @ superBul:
    Greetings SB.

    I really enjoy reading your comments with all the stats regarding the cricket. You either enjoy the sport immensely or you have far more time on your hands than I could ever conjoure up to check up on everything.

    Either way, it is a joy to read. Please carry on.

    As an aside, did you see the no ball that Luke Wright bowled in the T20 game for England against the Indians last month? His foot must have been at least 12 inches over the crease!

    I was sitting in a pub with a couple of friends and immediately we all asked where the Pakistaini bookmaker was?

    Do you think cricket will EVER get rid of it’s stigma around match fixing and spread betting?

  • 16

    13 @ superBul:
    And that greast bastion of reverse racism Mr Balfour doesn’t really mean much to Mr Kallis does he?

  • 17

    @ Scrumdown:
    Thanks for the good wishes
    I do like the Sport, and Stats is such a integral part of Cricket history, i do love to work on facts, proven ones, ones that end up as records.
    I would go over to the game thread with some interesting stats for now.

    PS. I did not see the No Ball that dismissed Luke Wright.

  • 18

    @ superBul:
    Luke Wright bowled it. Something fishy there. Pakistanis were jailed for as much.

    Maar nou ja. What do we know?


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