South Africa and New Zealand go into a one-match shootout for series honours when they meet in the second and final Test of their exchange starting at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday (August 27).
The first Test of the series in Durban had less than 100 overs of cricket – 99.4 actually – over four sessions before rain first and then a poor outfield meant no play at all was possible for the last three days of the game. The ICC match referee in question, Andy Pycroft, submitted his report to the ICC afterwards, expressing his concern and giving a “poor” rating to the outfield at Kingsmead.
This is the first time Test cricket has been played in South Africa in August, almost two months before the usual start of the season – Durban failed to make the grade after re-seeding the outfield only two months before the match.
But over at Centurion, Rudolph du Preez, the chief groundsman, has had the advantage of planting winter grass much earlier, with work starting in April, almost immediately after the 2015-16 season. And with virtually no rain in the area during winter, and no rain predicted during the Test, conditions should be suitable for a full five days of Test cricket.
Centurion has been a fortress for South Africa in Tests, with the home side having won 16 of the 21 Tests it has played at the ground, the only two losses coming against England in 1999-2000 and against Australia in 2013-14.
South Africa goes into the match buoyed by the form shown by Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, the opening pacemen who are both returning from injury, although they only bowled six overs each before rain intervened on the second day in Durban. In that time, Steyn had struck twice to reduce New Zealand to 15 for 2 in reply to South Africa’s 263, in which Hashim Amla contributed 53 and Temba Bavuma 46, with Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada hitting 30s lower down the order. Trent Boult and Neil Wagner picked up two wickets apiece for the visiting side, while Mitchell Satner had two.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Dean Elgar, Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Dane Piedt.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Doug Bracewell, Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult.