New Zealand’s unbeaten record on the line
New Zealand need back-to-back wins to extend a run of eight home series victories in a row – a ninth would put them alone in second place, behind South Africa’s gargantuan 17-series streak which stretched from 2002-2009. Speaking of South Africa, while one win will give them this series, they also need to take both matches to hold onto their No. 1 otherwise Australia will yo-yo back to top spot.
First thing’s first. They’ll be keen to wrap up the series in Hamilton, not least because it would give them the chance to rest the odd player, specifically Kagiso Rabada, from the final match ahead of the Tests. Although their results have flip-flopped in the series, the scale of their victory in Wellington will test New Zealand’s resolve.
A deciding match, at Eden Park which carries history for South Africa, would be a terrific end to the series. For that to occur, New Zealand will have to bat much better. Martin Guptill’s return will help but aside from him, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor question marks remain over the others.
All eyes will be on the surface. The pitch used for the first match of series turned appreciably although a next door strip will be rolled out this time. New Zealand three specialist spinners, South Africa two? Five in a match in a country where seam normally rules. Surely not. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)