Brendon McCullum. Photo Getty
New Zealand's side for the first test is all but decided
more than two days out from the start of the two-game series
against world No 1 South Africa.
Having completed their low-key warm-up game in Paarl today,
captain Brendon McCullum ticked off a few points about the
expected combination for the test starting at Newlands on
McCullum will open with Martin Guptill, he will not keep
wicket - meaning a return to the test game for BJ Watling,
who will bat No 6 - Dean Brownlie returns after missing the
last four tests and will bat at No 4, and the one selection
dilemma involves who will be the third seamer in the
injury-enforced absence of Tim Southee.
McCullum laughed off the idea that he might return to take
the wicketkeeping gloves and reinforced his confidence in
Northern Districts player Watling's ability to do the job
"Absolutely not," McCullum said of the idea of returning to
keeping for a 52nd time in his 71 test, and first as skipper.
"That career has passed me. It's BJ's opportunity and he kept
really well in the warmup on a tough surface.
"He's looking forward to it, he's earned his chance and I'm
sure he'll do well."
Watling's last test as wicketkeeper produced a maiden century
against Zimbabwe at Napier in January. He then suffered a hip
injury which forced him out on the eve of the opening South
African test at Dunedin last season.
Kruger van Wyk got his chance and kept for the next nine
tests before being dropped for this tour.
Watling's form in the shorter game has been good, and he will
bat in an important position, one spot ahead of the seasoned
"It's a pretty good top five and hopefully we can find some
ways to get partnerships going and put pressure back on South
Africa," McCullum added.
The one sticking point for coach Mike Hesson and McCullum is
completing the seam bowling trio.
Only one spinner, probably Wellington offspinner Jeetan
Patel, will be picked unless there's strong evidence of a
fast-drying surface in the two days before the test starts.
Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell will play, leaving veteran
Chris Martin and left armer Neil Wagner vying for a place.
The fifth fast-medium bowler in the squad, Mitchell
McClenaghan, is at the back of that queue, McCullum
He was the late selection to replace Southee, and McCullum
praised his form in the T20 series which preceded the tests.
"He was probably the find of the series," McCullum said of
the strongly-built Aucklander.
"I'm sure he's learning a lot about the dynamics of the long
game in this setup but at this point he's further back in the
pack than the other seamers."
The game against the South African Invitation XI was called
off in mid-afternoon on the final day, with New Zealand 117
for two in their second innings of a game in which the
tourists' used 13 players.
Guptill hit an unbeaten 68 off 79 balls, McCullum made 28 but
Brownlie, sidelined by a stomach bug late last week, had only
a short time in the middle, getting six.
McCullum is confident he'll be ready come Wednesday.
The bowlers all got through a decent amount of work in Paarl,
leaving McCullum confident they will be primed for the test.
"It was important to get their bowling loads up. They would
have liked more response from the wicket but they're pretty
happy and are going into this game with as much preparation
as they could possibly have had."
- David Leggat in Cape Town
He is happy with the balance of the side for the first test;
''we just have to make sure we select the right person for
that last role."
That will in large part come down to their reading of the
South African batsman AB de Villiers today predicted the
seamers will enjoy the first two days, the batsmen could
prosper on the third before spinners will get a look in over
the last two days.