Not such a very Friendly City

2013-01-06 10:00

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New Zealand showed signs of improvement after the horrifying first session of the first Test in Cape Town. But they’ll need more than just one rearguard action to square the series, writes Khanyiso Tshwaku.

Whatever happens after the New Year’s Test will live long in New Zealand’s memory.

Only at the start of their Test life were they subjected to the indignity of sub-50 scores and in those days they were rather weak.

One thing they showed in the post-tea session on Friday afternoon was a period of resilience, which saw them win the session by way of pummelling 77 runs in the immediate 10 overs before the Proteas reined in the rest of

the session, picking up crucial wickets.

To win Tests, sustained effort over a number

of sessions, culminating in a crescendo of force, is required. Short bursts, like the ones early on day two and after lunch, may swing sessions, but not decisively.

It was the bowling that fronted up, as was expected, even though veteran spearhead Chris Martin was relegated to first change.

Bowlers may win matches but it is the batsmen who set up the game and give the bowlers a morsel to chase after.

The New Zealanders had to fight for scraps and their top-order woes have to change if they want to they achieve anything decent.

While Martin Guptill may be an excellent limited-overs batsman with one of the sweetest straight drives in the game, his five-day deficiencies are a major source of worry for an already depleted line-up.

Weakness outside off stump cannot be part of an opening batsman’s arsenal and it does a disservice to the game. It puts pressure on the young number three, the talented Kane Williamson, and the combative – but ultimately a man short – middle order.

New Zealand will hope Port Elizabeth remains a bogey venue for South Africa, since the oldest Test venue in the country has been the scene of three consecutive Test defeats, the last one dating back to the Boxing Day test of 2007 against the West Indies.

Shiv Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels and Fidel Edwards contrived to pull off an upset and continued South Africa’s then poor first Test run, which has since subsided.

Another surprise could be the pitch, which is notorious for its capricious nature and is prone to sudden deterioration.

The bad Friendly City record is not something that worries Proteas captain Graeme Smith.

“I don’t think any one of us can remember those defeats. We try and squeeze those out of our brains as quickly as possible. Hopefully there are enough good things that we can take with us to Port Elizabeth.

“Even if we went to Durban, I would like to believe we could front up to those things that haven’t gone well and hopefully put those right,” he chirped.

From the outside it would seem the hosts have nothing to iron out; it was their inability to convert starts that deserted them.

Three 60s converted into 100s would have demoralised the visitors and will give them a glimmer of hope should they be able to create early inroads.

These unconverted starts were not a worry for South Africa’s lone centurion Alviro Petersen.

Dean Brownlie joined him on day three, chiselling out 109 as he gamely tried to save New Zealand’s bacon.

“You get good ball and you play poor shots and that sort of thing but I don’t think this is the time and place for me to comment on those sorts of dismissals. I thought they batted beautifully,” said Brownlie.

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