NZ vs SA: No Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor as New Zealand aim to break South Africa drought
NZ vs SA: New Zealand will be in unfamiliar territory when the first Test against South Africa begins on Thursday in Christchurch, without batting greats Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson.
It’s been 14 years since the hosts have started a Test without either Taylor or Williamson, their top two all-time Test run scorers, and they’re also looking to win a series against South Africa for the first time.
Taylor retired last month, while Williamson is sidelined with an injury, leaving the Black Caps without a steadying influence against the Proteas’ fast-paced attack.
South Africa arrived on a high note after winning both the Test and one-day series against India at home.
New Zealand coach Gary Stead admits his team faces a difficult task in the two-Test series.
“They’re obviously a quality side, capable of beating India in South Africa,” he said.
“They’ve got classy players throughout and while they lack some experience you certainly can’t underestimate them.”
New Zealand will also be without pace spearhead Trent Boult, who is expecting a kid, and will be replaced by Matt Henry.
Devon Conway, the batsman, and Neil Wagner, the fast bowler, were both born and raised in South Africa. And Stead said they were looking forward to playing the Proteas.
“From our perspective they’re true-blue Kiwis now, even though they might have slight accents at times,” he said.
“They’re working hard for the ‘Silver Fern’ but I guess playing against South Africa will be exciting for them as well.”
The defending World Test champions are the favourites to win the series. With South Africa in fifth place in the ICC Test rankings.
However, they have never won a Test series against South Africa. And have only won one of their 20 home matches against the Proteas.
Former Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum said South Africa under captain Dean Elgar were “tough, gritty, they don’t give you an inch”.
“I think this will be a ripper series, I’m predicting it could be 1-1. But I actually have South Africa going in as slight favourites,” he said.
“That’s pretty hard considering how good New Zealand have been in the last little while.”
Elgar was concerned of New Zealand’s threat on a fast wicket at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval. But said the India series had shown that South Africa could handle it.
“With respect, New Zealand’s attack a little bit down on pace compared to the Indian attack,” he said.
“In saying that, they execute their skills perfectly in their conditions.”