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New Zealand vs South Africa first test, day one

20/08/2016

Test match cricket is really hard. It requires patience, application and concentration over long periods of time. It was, therefore, great to see Black Caps bowlers apply themselves well over in Kingsmeade to have SA 236/8 after the first day’s play. I watched the second half of the first session and a bit of the second and thought Hashim Amla, unsurprisingly, looked seriously threatening as he unfurled several characteristically flowing cover drives, and other strokes around the ground, but his dismissal (from an inside edge of a Boult delivery) was the key wicket. Mitchell Santner will probably rather enjoy cricinfo’s description of him as a “sneaky saboteur” and, indeed, this is not a bad descriptor for a good spinner who should be able to strike on misjudgements from batting lapses in focus. Boult was clearly the standout but Wagner’s donkey work and willingness to hit the deck hard also paid dividends.

236/8 with two tailenders at the crease represents an excellent days work but getting through an early onslaught from Steyn and Philander won’t be easy. Zimbabwe were, as expected, easy beats and I found myself bored following that series as they were easily dispatched. South Africa, on the other hand, poses a serious challenge and the first one of Kane Williamson’s nascent career as test match captain.

Williamson and Taylor are obviously senior batsmen and players of high quality while BJ Watling is gritty and a good foil at 7 but, casting an eye from openers Guptill and Latham, neither of whom have asserted their place in test match cricket to the middle order with young Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner, there is a bit of brittleness.

That said, given the position of the match, if New Zealand bats well, then there is a real chance for the side to assert their dominance on the Proteas. For that to happen, I suspect one of the top four will need a hundred (preferably one of those “daddy hundreds” former English bat Graham Gooch has talked about) and for at least a couple of the others to make scores. A number of the protean wickets, such as Duminy’s misjudged hook to a Wagner bumper, came from batting errors. Yes good attentive bowling but batting errors. Early exchanges will be tough but if NZ can come through that, then there is a big opportunity to take control.

PS: Non New Zealand readers of this post may think it partisan. They are correct. I love  cricket, especially the test match game, and I am a strong Black Caps supporter. They haven’t been the easiest team to support since I first started following them as a child but I’ve been enjoying it much more over the last few years.

UPDATE: After the early morning rain, the deck looks juiced up. Both Boult and Southee have been getting swing and seam. Steyn and Philander will be hard to handle.

 

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