Black Caps: We're mentally tougher after loss
MARK GEENTY IN PORT ELIZABETH
After the groundhog days of post-test Cape Town, the road to the second test begins with a new city, conditions more like home and a New Zealand team who believe they're mentally tougher as a result of their Newlands cricket lesson.
The tourists take the 70-minute flight to Port Elizabeth tonight to begin three days of build-up to Friday's second test against South Africa, having picked over the carcass of "that 45" which led to an innings-and-27-run defeat.
Recent days in Cape Town mimicked what would have been days four and five of the first test.
Coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum demanded intense net sessions and got them, with the test pacemen and willing contenders Neil Wagner and Mitchell McClenaghan charging in and peppering the batsmen.
Hesson has suggested his charges might not have been mentally ready for the bombardment that awaited them on day one at Newlands.
And senior paceman Chris Martin, who joined in the work in the nets with fellow quicks Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell and James Franklin, felt this was what they needed.
"Now we know the challenge, the intensity and attitude we bring to training has to be as close to a match as possible," Martin said.
"It's very hard to imagine facing [Dale] Steyn and [Morne] Morkel and [Vernon] Philander in the nets but as a group of bowlers we're trying to lift the ante against our batters to make [sure] they get what they need out of training with a little bit more hostility and aggression.
"Overall you can walk away from a training, if you've trained like that, and feel more ready to deal with the fight."
The batting top-six won't change, while on evidence of training the four pacemen will remain, although a fired-up Wagner, who generated sharp pace in the nets, is pushing hard.
Left-arm spinner Bruce Martin is the most likely to come in for Jeetan Patel, who's struggled to make an impact and started backing away to square leg which won't impress the selectors.
After two days in the nets, the Black Caps had their originally scheduled post-test rest day.
McCullum, Patel and Bruce Martin teed up in Jacques Kallis' charity golf tournament while others were more adventurous.
Chris Martin, Dean Brownlie, Martin Guptill, Franklin and McClenaghan were due to get up close and personal with great white sharks from behind a cage on a guided diving tour.
They'll arrive in Port Elizabeth to temperatures a few degrees lower, and a city with a pleasant sea breeze and the beachfront feel of a New Zealand coastal town.
New Zealand beat South Africa in a test here in 1962, but their previous visit in 2000 resulted in a seven-wicket defeat.
That was South Africa's last test win in Port Elizabeth - in four subsequent matches they've drawn one, and lost to England (2004), Pakistan and West Indies (both in 2007).
Chris Martin, who played his second test in the last visit to Port Elizabeth, expects conditions to be more like home but potentially tougher for the pacemen than the bouncy Cape Town surface.
"I've played one game there... I do remember it being pretty slow and if you bowled a dead or a soft length then it sat up nicely to get hit.
"You learn quite a lot on those wickets and the bowlers will have to work a lot harder to get their wickets.
"Being down there for the Twenty20 it [the pitch] looked pretty dry."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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