Kass Naidoo

The underdog strikes back

2007-11-09 09:13

Kass Naidoo

For the first time in more than four years I have the satisfaction of being an armchair cricket fan for an international series at home after deciding to take a break from cricket broadcasting, and it was quite an experience lapping up the action on Thursday.

Day one of the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand started for me in the comfort of my lounge, rather than the commentary box, and though I was disappointed to see Graeme Smith lose his wicket early, I could certainly get used to the luxury of armchair viewing again!

On my way to see friends for lunch, I switched on my car radio, only to find no ball-by-ball coverage on Radio 2000. Later, I heard that "technical problems" prevented the station from broadcasting commentary locally, this despite New Zealand being able to receive the same feed.

Word is that SABC hopes the problem will be sorted out for Friday's day two, but fans are irate, and it's understandable. Many missed an action-packed day which saw 12 wickets fall with New Zealand holding the upper hand going into day two.

Leading up to this match, I had a sneaky feeling that the Black Caps would thrive on their all too familiar underdog status, and when they were presented with the opportunity to bowl first in overcast conditions, they capitalised in superb fashion with Shane Bond leading the way, picking up four wickets.

Burden of captaincy

South Africa's first innings total of 226 may not seem like much although from what experts are saying, the pitch is likely to deteriorate quickly, and who knows, SA's spinning sensation, Paul Harris, may be the star of the show once again.

But there is the small matter of removing former Black Caps captain, Stephen Fleming, who raced to an unbeaten 22 off 16 balls, with three fours and one six, by the close of play on day one.

Fleming has taken a liking to the Wanderers track over the past few years, and with the burden of captaincy lifted, he could pose some problems for Smith if he isn't dismissed early. Even if he goes early, there is still some good batting to come in the form of Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Jacob Oram, and Brendon McCullum.

But, with the amount of bounce in this track, Smith will be banking on a stellar performance from his fast bowlers to ensure New Zealand don't get any sort of lead.

In December last year, South Africa lost the first Test to India in Johannesburg after just four days. India batted first and made 249. In reply, South Africa were shot out for 84 with Sreesanth taking 5-40, and India never let the home team back in to the match. The Proteas then fought back by winning the two remaining matches to wrap up a 2-1 series win.

But there is no third Test cushion in this two-match series, and with the final Test due to begin in Centurion next Friday, the pressure will be on both teams to win this opening encounter, avoiding any possible disappointment to come, such as a rain-interrupted second encounter.

  • Kass Naidoo is editor of gsport... for Girls!

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