Few new selection options for Black Caps

MARK GEENTY IN CAPE TOWN
Last updated 05:00 05/01/2013

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OPINION: The fiery wreckage at least eased to a smoulder a day later.

Still, it's wreckage, a head-on against an irresistible force, and serious repair work is required before New Zealand can emerge shiny and new in Port Elizabeth next week.

The trouble is, as always with this team, is there anyone better who can put up a sterner fight from day one against this world No 1 test side?

Ironically, the team's worst batting performance in decades might be met with changes to the bowling lineup, where several options present themselves.

The only backup batsman in South Africa is Colin Munro, a late callup for the injured Peter Fulton.

Given Munro's dynamic Plunket Shield form for Auckland, and his cool-headed debut in the Twenty20 series against his country of birth, his inclusion makes some sense in the nothing-to-lose bracket.

But at the expense of who?

James Franklin still had one more turn at bat awaiting him overnight and his all-round qualities are valued by skipper Brendon McCullum, while opener Martin Guptill is the test batsman struggling the most.

It's remarkable, given his match-winning T20 century in East London, that Guptill has so much trouble against the red ball these days.

Guptill almost certainly won't be dropped for Port Elizabeth but the cold statistics say his test opening spot should come under severe scrutiny for the England visit.

In his past 10 test innings he's scored 118 runs at 11.8, with just one score over 20.

It seems unfathomable to drop Guptill from the test side but his technical worries against quality, attacking fast bowling continue.

Wicketkeepers and slips cordons are on high alert when he takes guard.

Runs desperately need to flow from his bat at St George's Park, or opener Fulton, denied a test recall by a knee injury, will loom back into view if fit for the home series.

McCullum's gritty second innings joust with Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel was encouraging, and with Ross Taylor seemingly back at No 4 for England, the skipper should remain at the top of the order.

South Africa's pace attack is of the highest class and no one else comes close for intensity, accuracy and variety.

It permits some leeway when assessing the New Zealand batsmen who get a cautious tick for their second innings after the abject lows of Wednesday.

The New Zealand bowling was average on day one and much better on day two, when they took 5-92, although still not up to their usually high standards without the injured Tim Southee.

Trent Boult wasn't as sharp without his pace partner in crime.

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Left-armers Neil Wagner, Bruce Martin and even Mitchell McClenaghan could all put fair cases for inclusion in Port Elizabeth. Wagner was unlucky to miss out here and should push Chris Martin close. The latter still hasn't rediscovered his best of last summer.

- Fairfax Media

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