Far be it from us to blow our own trumpet, but here is a quote from our preview of the second Test between these two sides:
“51allout to forget to write a review of the match and have to shoehorn one into the preview of the third Test.”
Thou shalt never doubt our predictions again.
South Africa go into the final Test – and their final outing (bizarre one-off T20 with India notwithstanding) before they head to England this summer – unable to lose the series and looking odds-on to finish the job in style. After a fairly comprehensive win in Hamilton, where they recovered from a couple of self-inflicted wobbles to ease home, they should be extremely confident of doing the same again. As much as we’d love a heroic home win, the tourists will probably win in Wellington even if they start with eight men; New Zealand seem to have morphed into England from the 90’s and are employing the ‘if you throw enough shit…’ selection policy to similar levels of success.
Where to start? The highs of their famous win in Hobart are a distant memory and they now appear totally incapable of making any sort of score. Rob Nicol’s Test career has been and gone in the blink of an eye; unceremoniously dumped after averaging 7 in his two games, while Brent Arnel is also back out again after one appearance. Daniel Flynn, who’s been batting in the middle order for his domestic side and has opened in one innings of his 29 at international level, will join up with Martin Guptill at the top order this week to recommence a partnership which lasted three balls last time they were together. Dean Brownlie, man in possession at number six pre-injury, is also back in the squad, but it’s not clear whether he’ll actually play. Told you it was all a bit 90’s England.
The most frustrating thing about it all is that it all seems unnecessary. Yes, they’re struggling with the bat, but the selectors need to take a step back and take a moment to think about what they’re up against. The Steyn/Morkel/Philander pace trio is comfortably the (second) best attack in the world. There is no shame in getting found out against them. Having split up the Guptill/McCullum opening pair they now seem to be desperately going round the houses before they put them back together, instead of just doing it and accepting they’ll look a bit silly. Kane Williamson is being shunted all over the place; having been at three in Australia he’s now back down to five, replacing Jesse Ryder who’s still out for disciplinary reasons. While dropping him is understandable, can they really afford to lose someone with his ability? It’s difficult to explain why the team now is so different to the one which took to the field in Hobart.
As for their opponents, well they have few of the problems dogging the hosts. Graeme Smith’s opening partner is still a minor problem; Alviro Petersen hasn’t nailed down that spot by any stretch of the imagination and may not have many chances left, but he will at least get another shot in Wellington. The only other issue is that both in Hamilton and in the first Test in Dunedin the tourists gave New Zealand a sniff and better teams may have punished them for it. Two poor batting efforts in the first innings reflect a trend which has developed since their series with Australia last year; only twice in the previous seven Tests have they scored more than 266 first time out (96, 266, 411, 168, 580/4d, 238 and 253 is the full list, if you were wondering). They have managed to get away with it in this series, but it cost them a Test apiece to Australia and Sri Lanka, and low first innings scores will cost them in England as well.
Other than that little hiccup, everything looks in pretty good order for the South Africans. Their bowling attack has been outstanding once again – highlighted by them ripping New Zealand’s first innings apart by taking five wickets for no runs at one stage in Hamilton – and their batsmen are scoring big runs second time around. If we were feeling particularly critical we’d suggest that Imran Tahir still needs to prove himself at this level, but he’s hardly had a chance in this series because of how many wickets the pacemen are taking, so we’ll let him off.
South Africa to crush New Zealand into nothing inside three days, Simon Doull to call for everyone to be dropped again, and us to have a review up within minutes of the final wicket falling.