South Africans urge against using Wagner
MARK GEENTY IN PORT ELIZABETH
South Africa's wicketkeeper-batsman AB de Villiers says New Zealand will feel under pressure to play paceman Neil Wagner in the second test, but believes that will make their attack too predictable.
Ironically for New Zealand, who were shot out for 45 on the first day of their innings-and-27-run defeat in the first test at Newlands, there are some head-scratchers around the makeup of their bowling lineup for tomorrow's second test at Port Elizabeth (9.30pm NZT).
Left-armer Wagner, who went to school with de Villiers in Pretoria, is a contender for a pace-bowling spot, possibly at Chris Martin's expense.
Wagner played the last of his two tests in the West Indies in August but bowled another hostile spell in the nets today alongside Trent Boult, and could be effective on a dryer, slower surface at St George's Park with his ability to generate reverse swing.
De Villiers rates Wagner as a cricketer but wouldn't play him here, because Boult and all-rounder James Franklin are also left-armers.
"They lost the first test match so they might be under a bit of pressure to play him [Wagner]," de Villiers said.
"He's a wonderful bowler, we all know that. Personally I wouldn't do it because of the amount of left-handers that would be in the attack.
"But you never know. We know he's a skilful bowler and he picks up wickets consistently back in New Zealand.
"I saw him at a very young age performing really well with bat and ball so he's a capable cricketer. I expect him to do well in his international career."
So New Zealand could well retain the same pace attack from Cape Town, with the experienced Martin at first change behind Boult and Doug Bracewell, while the spin berth is up for grabs.
Jeetan Patel went wicketless in unsuitable conditions in Cape Town and backed away alarmingly when he batted.
Left-armer Bruce Martin will be strongly considered for his test debut, and offers more with the bat, with a first-class century for Auckland this season.
There were few clues on team selection when the New Zealanders trained at St George's Park.
Martin Guptill looks likely to remain opening alongside Brendon McCullum in an unchanged top-six despite his recent struggles against the red ball.
After the hectic opening session of the first test on a seaming Newlands pitch, de Villiers predicts a more sedate second test that will span five days.
"The game just moves a bit slower in PE," he said.
"Generally you see five-day test matches and it goes all the way. The wicket doesn't do as much, it's a bit slower and you've got to work for your wickets and also work for your runs.
"The run rates will probably be a bit lower than usual and you've got to fight hard in test matches here to get your rewards, which we're prepared to do.
"We're expecting the New Zealanders to play better than what they did in the first test. It's going to be a hard-fought test match.
"They've always been a fighting team - they never let go and they never say die. Very similar to us, very resilient.
"Unfortunately that first session [in Cape Town] cost them quite a bit but they played much better after that."
For an all-conquering team who earned their world No 1 spot and vow to keep it for the foreseeable future, South Africa's record in Port Elizabeth is surprisingly poor.
The Proteas haven't played a test here since December 2007, a 128-run defeat to the West Indies which was their third successive test defeat at the ground.
Their last win at the ground was against New Zealand in 2000.
"I'm not sure, we probably just played poor cricket." de Villiers said of their previous loss.
"I can't remember all the games but we were probably bit complacent playing a team not as strong as us on the rankings and we were probably 1-0 up and let it go.
"We're very much aware of that and our record here in the past and we want to change that."
South Africa will probably make one change, with Rory Kleinveldt replacing injured seamer Vernon Philander.
New Zealand has footage of Kleinveldt from his two tests in Australia pre-Christmas, and also played him in the T20 series here.
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