After losing both the limited overs series, New Zealand will look to take an early lead when they take on South Africa in the first of the three-match Test series. The hosts have been dismal with the bat, getting bowled out for under 200 in three matches. Their middle-order hasn't fired and Kane Williamson will be hoping for a better performance from his side. The dark horses are currently ranked No.5 and would be hoping to better their rankings come the end of the series.
The new set of openers will try to make it big and New Zealand will rely on Williamson too, who is yet to play a captain's knock in the first innings. Their middle-order still looks shaky even though they've a vastly experienced campaigner in Ross Taylor. Nicholls has shown promise but has to perform on a consistent basis. New Zealand's pace battery is a positive with frontline pacers Tim Southee and Trent Boult fully fit. Both of them bowled well in patches in the ODI series. Santner will be looking for a good spin partner but it's highly unlikely that he'd get one.
South Africa has impressed on this tour. The visitors have shown great persistence and promise. All the victories came with the whole team performing as a unit and Faf du Plessis will be hoping to see more of that. With no AB de Villiers in the squad, South Africa also have some qualms about their middle order. Amla and Cook have played well but as mentioned earlier, their middle order has failed to perform consistently. Bavuma has a high score of 21 runs in 7 matches and that goes to show how fragile their middle order is even though they have JP Duminy in their ranks.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) March 6, 2017
Quinton de Kock has proven to be a force in the longer formats and averages over 50. South Africa's pace battery is no less when compared to their opponents with the likes of Rabada and Philander firing on all cylinders in the last few Tests. Morne Morkel is making a comeback to the squad after a gruesome injury and would hope to get some play time. Indian origin spinner Keshav Maharaj is the lone spinner.
Kane Williamson has been a mainstay for the hosts. The right-hander has led well with the bat but hasn't scored a defining knock in the first innings of a match as the skipper. He averages just over 50 after having played 58 Tests and has a good record against South Africa having scored a century and a couple of half-centuries.
Faf du Plessis, Williamson's opposite number, has been one of the most consistent players in the world. The technically sound batsman has the ability to change the course of the match and is a live wire on the field. His highest Test score (137) has come against the New Zealanders and he has scored a couple of centuries.
After 8 tests as captain, Faf du Plessis has the highest win percentage (75%) of any SA test skipper (minimum 5 tests as captain). pic.twitter.com/4ViMC5l5WM
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) March 6, 2017
Venue: University Oval, Dunedin
Time: 11 am Local (03.30 am IST)
New Zealand: Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
South Africa: Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada.