What a strange series of test cricket. Hyped up as history in the making before it started, New Zealand started with the momentum of actually having a build-up and a good first day of the series.
They then had the frustration of the Durban shambles, and then lost that momentum when they sent South Africa in to bat in the second only test.
Arguably, the most concerning thing about that South African first innings at Centurion is that pretty much everyone got themselves in. This should not have been a pitch where you start easily. Although it was deteriorate later, it was still not that easy for batting on the first day.
There was not a lot of luck in that test; a couple of DRS appeals were left hanging out there, the ball beat the bat a lot, and then there was Latham’s first innings dismissal. But cricket is a sport where luck seems to go the way of the side making the play.
There were more than a few disconcerting signs during that test. Although he bounced back in friendly conditions in the second innings, Tim Southee’s continuing impotence when there’s nothing helping him has now stretched for around 18 months. Santner was worringly marginalised during the test.
On the batting side of things Ross Taylor’s first innings was a particular worry. Roughed up by some short stuff, hit on the body a couple times, he seemed so caught in the headlights he ran himself out in a way you would normally see on a Saturday morning down the road. Other sides will have taken notes, and he can expect to see a lot more of that in years to come. He had a decent excuse for the second innings though.
They now return to New Zealand for a week or so, check on the state of their battered fingers (the captain is the biggest concern there), before heading off to India. It doesn’t get any easier.
At least this series will be a proper three test series, but given the state of the pitches produced by India this time last year it is likely to be a huge test in the art of spin bowling and, more importantly, the art of batting against spin bowling.
You would expect Mark Craig (they still rate him) to come in for Henry to reflect those conditions. Surely Raval will finally get to play a test; three of them in fact.
There have been whispers about Munro making this squad given his reputation for being able to play spin. Given Nicholls’s performance at Centurian you would think that if Munro was to play it would be as an extra batsman.
The resolve of this New Zealand cricket team is about to get a real test.