Hamilton: New Zealand will be aiming for only their second ever Test victory at home against South Africa, when the two teams take the field in the second match of the series at Seddon Park on Thursday.
Having gone down to the South Africans in the Twenty20 series and the one-dayers on the current tour, the Black Caps raised the bar against the visitors in the first Test in Dunedin which eventually ended in a draw, after rain washed out the entire fifth day's play.
However, the scores would suggest that South Africa were well matched by the Kiwis, and the hosts in fact had a chance to secure a win, even if it was a slim one.
After bowling out the tourists for 238, New Zealand fought their way to 273 before South Africa declared their second innings at 435 for 5. Chasing a target of 401, the home team was 137 for 2 at stumps on the fourth day, 264 runs away from a famous victory with eight wickets in hand. However, rain on the final day ruined all chances of a result.
Chris Martin, who grabbed a six-wicket haul during the 2004 home series against the South Africans, once again took a liking to their batting line-up with figures of 4 for 56 in the first innings.
South Africa on their part, bounced back brilliantly in their second innings, with skipper Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Jacques Rudolph helping themselves to centuries, after Vernon Philander's 4 for 72 kept the New Zealand lead down to manageable proportions.
The big news as far as the New Zealanders are concerned is the inclusion of pacer Mark Gillespie in the squad - who last played a Test for his country in 2008 - and the dropping of Tim Southee, who has been the mainstay of their bowling attack till recently. Southee went wicketless for 140 runs in 36 overs in Dunedin. Whether Gillespie adds to his three Test caps remains to be seen, because of the presence of fast bowler Brent Arnel. After a difficult Test debut, Rob Nicol is expected to hold his place at the top of the order despite calls for Brendon McCullum to move a place higher.
South Africa’s big concern is the fitness of AB de Villiers, who sprained his ankle while training on Tuesday. South Africa’s limited-overs captain tweeted that he ‘should be ready’ for the match but the management will not want to risk playing de Villiers should he not be 100% fit. If de Villiers does not recover in time, his place in the middle order will go to JP Duminy who hasn’t played Test cricket since February 2010.
Looking ahead to Hamilton, both teams will be hoping for a better show from their batsmen in the first innings, which could have a major say in the final outcome this time around.
New Zealand: 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor (capt), 5 Kane Williamson, 6 Daniel Vettori, 7 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Mark Gillespie/Brent Arnel, 11 Chris Martin.
South Africa: 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers/JP Duminy, 6 Jacques Rudolph, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir.