Cape Town – The rare luxury for them in New Zealand of being
the team in the front-foot position ahead of the final Test must be a
considerable comfort for South Africa as they contemplate the apparently gloomy
and wet weather in Wellington ahead of Friday’s start (Thursday 23:30 SA time).
Somehow the boot seems to be handily on the other foot as
the Black Caps chew on the wisdom of scheduling two autumnal Tests in a
three-Test series on the more climatically fickle South Island.
It is they, after all, who are chasing the game in a 0-1
position and suddenly needing as much time as possible at the Basin Reserve to
try to force victory and thus share the series.
If you examine tweets or reports from South African players
and media in the lead-up to the contest, it seems the weather is already close
“Non-stop rain in Wellington,” lamented middle-order batsman
Jacques Rudolph on Tuesday, while a Cricket South Africa news tweet said the
team had resorted to an indoor practice.
The long-range forecast does not make especially encouraging
reading from a New Zealand perspective, either: at this stage all of the first
three days of the Test look overcast and damp.
Perhaps the best hope for Ross Taylor and company under the
circumstances is that the pitch will create lottery conditions to some extent
if it has been under covers and not exposed to any protracted sunshine in the
But if the Proteas do have a bit of a lingering “first-innings
deficiency” problem, the New Zealanders have even greater, broader worries on
the batting front and such conditions may only play into the hands of the
tourists’ spicier attack.
A further tonic for Graeme Smith’s side, as they go all out
to at least defend their series lead by not losing, is South Africa’s excellent
track record at the Basin Reserve and the Black Caps’ contrasting modern woes
South Africa have played five Tests at the venue since 1932,
winning four and drawing just one, and boast comfortable wins in each of the
two games in the post-isolation era (1999 and 2004).
In both prior modern instances (and on each occasion the
final encounter of three-Test series, like now) the Proteas were the team
primarily in catch-up mode rather than with their noses in front: in 1999 their
win broke the nil-nil situation to snatch the spoils, and in the last Test
there Graeme Smith’s typically influential second-innings 125 not out ensured a
six-wicket triumph and come-from-behind share of the series 1-1.
Veterans Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher are the only two
current staffers to be survivors from as far back as the 1999 game.
Kingpin batsman Kallis, incidentally, has an unusually poor
batting record at the “Reserve”, sporting only 22 runs from four completed Test
knocks, so he has the incentive to put that right.
Disconcertingly for New Zealand, the often windswept ground
has hardly been a fortress for them recently: the last seven Tests there have
seen them emerge victorious only against weak Bangladesh, with defeats to Sri
Lanka, England, Pakistan and Australia and further draws against Pakistan and
It never rains but it pours? Kiwis must be hoping for a
change in fortune, both weather-wise and by the national side, and quickly ...
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