Cricket: Jeetan Patel looking likely to win Black Caps spinner spot for second test

By David Leggat in Wellington

Jeetan Patel appears a good bet to win the spinner's spot for the second test. Photo / photosport.nz
Jeetan Patel appears a good bet to win the spinner's spot for the second test. Photo / photosport.nz

Most elements you can think of are stacked against New Zealand when they start the second test against South Africa at the Basin Reserve.

First, they've lost two key players to injury; second, they've only ever beaten South Africa once in New Zealand, in 18 attempts; third, they've managed just two draws, alongside four defeats at the Basin Reserve against the South Africans.

Still, nothing beats a decent challenge to stoke the fires within.

The losses of senior batsman Ross Taylor and top quality left arm swing man Trent Boult undoubtedly weaken New Zealand's hand.

Boult has an upper left leg issue, although the word today was that he's a decent chance to be fit for the third test in Hamilton next week.

Taylor's calf blew out in the drawn first test in Dunedin.

One man's misfortune is another's opportunity was a theme at today's press conferences, so in comes debutant Neil Broom, at 33, and, almost certainly, seamer Matt Henry to join Neil Wagner and Tim Southee in a three-pronged seam attack.

Broom is assured of a warm welcome from the South Africans, their captain Faf du Plessis said.

"Ross is experienced, class player, but it also opens an opportunity for Neil," Southee said. "He's obviously played a lot of first class cricket. I'm sure he's been dreaming of this moment for a long time. The guys back him."

While du Plessis confirmed, almost certainly, the same XI from Dunedin, New Zealand have a discussion ahead over which of the two spinners to play - always assuming they're not going to fly in the face of history and play both Mitchell Santner and Jeetan Patel tomorrow.

Southee, the team's nominated speaker today, simply said there's more talking to be done on that.

Patel, at 36, would be playing his 23rd test, but first on his home ground. He took four wickets in the first test, to the one of Santner, bowled a pile more overs and did a tidy job.

He also spent time today out in the middle of the ground on his own bowling beside the test pitch while Santner was doing his bit in the nets. Conclusions can be drawn.

With left armer Neil Wagner bounding in and creating some rough for the offspinner to work with, plus his good record against lefthanders, of whom South Africa have three in their top seven, Patel is a good chance to win the spot.

Santner remains a work in progress as a test allrounder.

"There's lots of discussions around selections," Southee, a senior figure and whose ear would be close to the chat, said.

"You've got to balance up the attack. You've got to take 20 wickets. So it's finding the perfect side that can score runs but also be able to take 20 wickets. There are a few conversations going on."

Expect the pitch to be a good batting strip. It had browned significantly today, with a few green blotches.

Boldness would call for batting first, and trusting your batsmen to work through what is likely to be a testing first three hours before the job becomes easier.

Remember, Bangladesh made 595 after being sent in two months ago. Then again, New Zealand were rolled for 183 by Australia, after being inserted a year ago. In the two previous tests, New Zealand, sent in both times, made 221 (against Sri Lanka) and 192 (India). So make what you will of that.

"We've played a lot of test cricket here but when you get the final look (today) hopefully we'll know what it's going to do. We've seen in the past it's generally been a pretty good cricket wicket," Southee added.

South Africa's high class seamers Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel took six wickets apiece in New Zealand's innings' in their last test at the Basin five years ago. They like the place.

If Patel is picked, New Zealand would rather bowl last. A big toss lies in store tomorrow.

New Zealand v South Africa
Second test, Basin Reserve, starts 11am tomorrow

New Zealand: (from) Kane Williamson ©, Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Neil Broom, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitch Santner or Jeetan Patel, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Matt Henry.

South Africa: (probable) Faf du Plessis ©, Dean Elgar, Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla, J-P Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel.

- NZ Herald

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