Cricket: Little confidence in Black Caps going the distance

By David Leggat in Cape Town

The talk is no one's buying tickets for day four of the opening test between South Africa and New Zealand.

Add in the strong rumours that Cricket South Africa officials have had a say in how much grass to leave on the Newlands pitch and you have two pointers to how New Zealand's test credentials are regarded in this country ahead of tackling the world No 1 team from tonight (NZT).

The Newlands ground is expected to be close to full capacity of about 21,000 for the first day of South Africa's first test at home for almost a year.

But ticket sales are poor for days four and five, with New Zealand rated a slim chance to take the game out to its full duration.

Then there's the talk that the South African team wanted more grass left on the pitch to enhance the chances of boosting their world class seam attack's prospects of putting New Zealand's batsmen through hoops.

The story goes that CSA bosses vetoed that. They wanted the pitch to get a decent haircut because they're worried about the prospect of a three, or four-day test and the related size of the financial hit that would mean.

That sort of talk doesn't particularly appeal to New Zealand's new test captain Brendon McCullum.

''We don't want to entertain those sort of thoughts," he said.

''This is an opportunity to play a very good team in a fantastic ground over the festive period. For us it's all about opportunity. What comes as the test unfolds we'll approach a day at a time.

''But we need to make sure we hit the ground running and put them under pressure early on."

McCullum steered away from talk over the captaincy issue, and how the dumping of previous leader Ross Taylor had affected the team.

''What has gone on has gone on, but I've got a job to do and I just want our team to stand up and perform well in this series.

''If we're able to achieve that over two tests then we'll be able to look back and say we've made some improvements.

''It's certainly not about me. It's about this team and it doesn't really matter who is captain at this point in time. We've all got a job to do."

Coach Mike Hesson rated his squad ''a pretty tough group" who won't be daunted by what lies ahead.

''We know they're uncompromising and they'll come hard at us, but we're prepared for that," Hesson said.

First test coverage will have latest updates from Newlands when the test match begins at 9.30pm NZT.

South Africa: (from) Graeme Smith (c), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Jacques Rudolph, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Rory Kleinveldt.

New Zealand: (probable) Brendon McCullum (c), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, Daniel Flynn, BJ Watling, James Franklin, Doug Bracewell, Jeetan Patel, Trent Boult, Chris Martin or Neil Wagner.

Read more:
Captain ready to make his mark against world's best
Plenty of respect for Black Caps - Smith
Watling out to make up for lost time

- NZ Herald

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