Cape Town – An all-South African wicketkeeping duel in many
respects is guaranteed when the Proteas lock horns with New Zealand in the
first Test at Dunedin’s University Oval on Wednesday (Tuesday 23:30, SA time).
The veteran South African incumbent, Mark Boucher, will be
up against either of BJ Watling or Kruger van Wyk for the Black Caps, who added
the latter to the squad on Monday as Watling is battling a hip problem.
Van Wyk is especially familiar to many South Africans as he
played a few seasons for the Titans before emigrating to New Zealand; Watling is
Durban-born but been in the Land of the Long White Cloud for much longer and
played all his first-class cricket there.
There is going to be additional interest back home in
Boucher’s performance both behind the stumps and with the blade in Dunedin and
beyond, as he probably needs a convincing enough series to be sure of his
ticket to England later in the year, when he is very likely to bow out of
international activity after reaching the 150-Test landmark – he currently
stands on 144 caps with three Test against New Zealand and then a further trio
against Andrew Strauss’s outfit looming.
Boucher, 35, has spoken with unusual candour in an interview
with Cricinfo’s Firdose Moonda this week, well nigh confirming that he will end
his illustrious Proteas career this year.
“My body is getting a little sore, to be honest. The back is
starting to play up a bit.
“If I can manage myself form-wise and it all goes to plan,
then after England I will probably look at ... retirement.”
The holder of numerous wicketkeeping records, Boucher had an
unconvincing home summer, particularly in his role of No 7 batsman.
Clearly he has been feeling some pressure because the
normally strong-minded and fiercely combative character admitted: “A couple of
things creep into your head that shouldn’t really be there, like what people
are saying about you.”
Meanwhile the South Africans, many of them in good spirits
after contributing to winning both the Twenty20 and ODI portions of the tour,
can prepare themselves for a genuinely icy welcome to the Dunedin Test.
Coach Gary Kirsten spoke at a pre-game press briefing of his
own uncomfortable recollections of playing in 9 deg C temperature on the last
tour to New Zealand in 2004 -- and the forecast at this stage for the
traditionally frigid South Island city is for 10 degrees Celsius on day one, with
outbreaks of rain.
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