Warm-up games often act as auditions, and New Zealand cricket
coach Mike Hesson will have his pace bowlers rehearsing their
lines during the next three days against the South African
Invitational XI in Paarl.
With temperatures expected to reach the low 40s at Boland
Park, Hesson will be able to use 12 players in the game that
gets underway tonight (Friday) and will serve as a vital
lead-in to a tough two-test series against the Proteas
starting at Newlands in Cape Town on January 2.
"We've been fortunate enough that we are able to play 12 so
it gives us an opportunity to play an extra bowler so we can
monitor our loads leading in to the test match," Hesson said.
"So we've got a number of guys we need to get up to speed and
then we'll probably back them off towards the back end of the
New Zealand's test squad is 15-strong and it appears back-up
spinner Bruce Martin will be surplus to requirements for the
Other selection dilemmas will involve James Franklin and Dean
Brownlie competing for the No 6 batting spot and Mitchell
McClenaghan and Neil Wagner for the extra seamer's berth.
That space was created by Tim Southee's withdrawal from the
tour with a thumb injury.
Veteran Chris Martin has spent the past few test matches
carrying the drinks but appears a likely replacement for
Southee given his experience and decent record against South
Africa in the past.
Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult and Martin appear to be the
likely seam unit but if Hesson opts for a four-man pace
attack will have to make a call between Wagner and
McClenaghan, which could be a fearsome mix on the quick South
Wagner hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations placed on
him since he came in to the national side earlier this year,
while McClenaghan was the form bowler of the Twenty20 series
against the Proteas that New Zealand lost 2-1.
Hesson's top-order will also have a slightly different feel
given the side's best batsman, Ross Taylor, was unavailable
following the fallout over his dismissal as captain.
Peter Fulton has showed plenty of form opening for Canterbury
on the domestic circuit this summer and new skipper Brendon
McCullum has hinted he may drop down the order to fill
Taylor's spot at No 4 so Fulton can open with Martin Guptill.
"It's a big part of our preparation really with such a short
turnaround," Hesson said of three-day game.
"The test guys have been here for three days now so we are
getting them out in the middle and getting them used to the
red ball again and basically just using these next three days
to prepare for Newlands."
The wicket at Boland Park in Paarl is somewhat of an unknown
quantity for Hesson's men.
"We know a little bit from what we've seen on video but you
have pitches change over time," Hesson said.
"From what I understand it's the hottest part of the country,
so 40-42 degrees. We are expecting three hot days and an
hour's travel either way so they'll be three big days and
you've got to make the most of the time you get out there."