The Standard Bank Proteas will be treating the second Test match against New Zealand starting at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Thursday as a ‘must-win’. Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis, emphasised the importance of achieving a favourable result following the drawn first Test in Dunedin earlier this week, which has left the series closely balanced with two matches to play.
“Yes I would, but I would weigh up how far I would be able to push the boundary,” Du Plessis said when asked if he would risk losing the match to win it. “From a ‘setting up the game’ point of view, we will play the match like we play every single game,” he explained. “We will try and set it up so that if the opportunity presents itself later in the Test match I will be looking at that.”
Du Plessis has asked for an improved effort from the batting line-up, which has yet to fire as a collective despite posting competitive scores. His fifties in both innings’, Dean Elgar’s man-of-the-match contributions and Temba Bavuma’s half-century were the only standout performances from the first match, a disappointing feature for a line-up that prides itself on consistency.
“Once again some consistency,” he said. “As a batting unit we have been good at stepping up; different guys in different series. There has been a hundred in every innings that we have played but for me we haven’t had that consistency that I often ask for from the batsmen. One hundred in a series from each guy is not enough, it’s about raising the consistency bar. In every series, we rely on two batters to make a play in the top six, that needs to be better, we need four out of the six batters firing.”
The captain will be banking on the experience of pace spearheads Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, and the strike power from Kagiso Rabada, in conditions he hopes will be more ‘normal’ than Dunedin. Philander (6/81) and Morkel (6/23) were the chief destroyers in the drawn match played in 2012 and will provide valuable insight and perspective to another unnatural challenge - the wind.
“Morne knows about the wind, he has spoken to us about it,” Du Plessis said. “The experience that he has is vital to us as a team and to the bowling unit. The confidence they take from that is a good thing for us. I don’t know if the conditions will be the same as five years ago but we will have to wait and see.
“That is going to be a challenge,” he said of the wind. “New Zealand will be used to playing in these conditions. We have Port Elizabeth and Cape Town where the wind blows, but it doesn’t feel like this. Especially for the guys who have to bowl into the wind, that is the biggest challenge for the seamers. Spinners have to bowl with the wind against them and sometimes that is difficult. From a batting perspective, it can work on your balance if the wind pushes you over.”
The match is scheduled to start at 11h00 local time (00h00 SAST).