The third and final test of this series between New Zealand and South Africa is about to get underway under a cloud of injury. New Zealand has added Tim Southee to its list of injured players and is still waiting on confirmation about the availability of Trent Boult.
South Africa is also holding its cards close and not making any disclosures about Quinton de Kock’s finger injury, but there is a good chance he will not feature in this last test.
So with all that in mind, what can we expect from the two teams at Hamilton?
South Africa is leading the series 1-0 and knows that it has an excellent chance of maintining its historical dominance over the Black Caps. The hosts, on the other hand, will be desperate to equalize the series and keep their excellent home record this season intact.
The problem area for the both the teams has been their batting. In Tom Latham, New Zealand seems to have a walking wicket as the young Kiwi opener is yet to show any sign of form. Jeet Raval is the only player that has passed fifty twice in this series for New Zealand so far and shown the patience needed to tackle a good South African attack.
The gun batsman for New Zealand is Kane Williamson. He has 133 runs in the series so far at an average of 44.33 but 130 of those runs have come in a single inning. Similarly, Henry Nicholls with 137 runs in the series so far has scored 118 in one outing.
This shows that New Zealand is struggling to get consistency from its batsmen and not giving its bowlers enough to play with. The inclusion of two all-rounders in its playing eleven seems to be making its batting more vulnerable now that the opposition boasts of a quality bowling attack.
Neil Wagner with 9 wickets and Jeet Patel with 5 have been the stand out bowlers for New Zealand. Patel and Santner can expect to play a much bigger role in Hamilton where the pitch is expected to aid the spinners throughout.
South Africa has problems with its batting order as well... Stephen Cook barely resembles a test quality player in current form, while Hashim Amla and JP Duminy continue to struggle with run making. They had been bailed out by de Kock and Bavuma in the first innings of the second test, a partnership that proved to be match winning in the end.
With de Kock, a doubtful starter for this match, the responsibility on the other batsmen will only increase. Luckily for South Africa, Amla showed some excellent touch in the small chaser to win the second test.
The start of the bowling effort has been Keshav Maharaj with 13 wickets as he made the most of the dry, spin friendly conditions on offer while the returning Morne Morkel has been excellent as well. Vernon Philander has only two wickets to show for his efforts so far but his line and length has been impeccable.
We think that by opting for a dry surface in Hamilton, New Zealand is hoping to play in conditions that South Africa does not like rather than trying to play to its own strengths. We think there is enough quality in this South African unit to overcome New Zealand on this surface as well.
Our Resident Expert's Tips
Back South Africa To Win. (Latest odds put Sth Africa at $2.50 and NZ at $5 for a straight win) New Zealand 1st Innings Top Run Scorer – Jeet Raval South Africa 1st Innings Top Run Scorer – Faf Du Plessis New Zealand 1st Innings Top Wicket Taker – Jeet Patel South Africa 1st Innings Top Wicket Taker – Morne Morkel