TELFORD VICE in Hamilton
YOU have to feel for New Zealand, who’ve won four and drawn another of the six tests they’ve played at home this summer.
But it’s the other result, their eight-wicket loss to South Africa at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Saturday, that’s earning them unwanted attention.
The fallout wouldn’t have been that bad had the visitors emerged victorious after a hard-fought game.
But the Kiwis struggled as much as a cheap umbrella in Wellington’s wanton wind.
Not only were they beaten in three days, they lost their last five wickets for 16 runs in half-an-hour; four of them to a spinner, Keshav Maharaj, on a seamer’s pitch.
And that after South Africa totalled 359 in a first innings that had listed at 94/6.
New Zealand have a chance to atone for their sorry performance in the last test, which starts at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Saturday.
But that will mean showing much more batting backbone than they did at the Basin.
“We’ve played some really good cricket at home this summer,” BJ Watling offered in his team’s defence on Wednesday.
“We’ve won four tests and drawn one – it’s not a calamity.
“There’s a lot of talk about the collapse, and these things happen and we are obviously very disappointed.
“But it has been a good summer and we just need to continue on that and make sure we are fighting in this next test.”
Watling has put his money where his mouth as one of only 11 New Zealanders who have spent more than 470 minutes at the crease twice in his career.
He was grittier than most in Wellington, where he was at the crease for 302 of the 630 minutes the Kiwis lasted in both their innings.
“I love batting and I hate getting out,” Watling said.
“You respect each delivery and the South Africans bowl a lot of good balls that you’ve got to respect, and you’ve got to wait a bit longer to get the balls to put away.”
Would, for the sake of a decent contest at Seddon Park, that Watling’s teammates are able to implement his advice.
The problem, for New Zealand, is that they are caught between the rock of knowing they failed to deal with Maharaj and the hard place that is South Africa’s pace attack.
Morne Morkel, who took match figures of 5/132, struck the body blows that preceded Maharaj’s head shots at the Basin.
Vernon Philander went wicketless for 57 in 27 overs, but bowled better than he has done in many games in which he has claimed five or more wickets.
On his last test trip to Hamilton, in March 2012, he was duly rewarded with 10/114 – six of them in the second innings.
South Africa won that match by nine wickets in three days.
Now, where’ve we heard something like that before …