Left-armer Neil Wagner's chances of making the second
test against South Africa may have taken a jump, if observing
today's New Zealand training session is any sort of guide.
New Zealand used left-armer Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell and
the senior man, Chris Martin in the first test loss at Cape
Town last week.
At training on the practice facilities beside St George's
Park, Otago's Pretoria-born Wagner was given first crack when
the net session began. Martin, meanwhile, was doing fielding
practice on the oval, then biding his time.
It may have been nothing more than rotating bowlers so all
the seamers get an equal crack.
But Wagner, who has 260 first-class wickets at a fine 20.77
runs each, warmed to his challenge of impressing captain
His only tests came in the West Indies midway through last
year, and he took four expensive wickets in the two matches.
Before moving to New Zealand, Wagner played with and against
South African players, including their wicketkeeper and top
class batsman AB de Villiers.
He spoke highly of Wagner today, was sure he'd do well in
international cricket. But de Villiers struck a reasonable
point when wondering if, with Trent Boult already ensconced
as the new ball go-to bowler, two left-arm seamers might be
one too many.
There's no doubt the energy of the New Zealand bowlers has
been raised since Cape Town. Several batsmen were given a
hurry-up in the nets today.
''We've been training pretty hard and the intensity's gone up
another notch, which is always a good thing," Boult said.
''We need to stick to our plans and what we've been talking
about, and that's being patient and trying to outlast our
opponents. It's about keeping it simple and not getting too
far ahead of ourselves."
Patience is regarded as a key attribute in Port Elizabeth and
by general consent the pitch will be lower and slower than
Newlands, runs harder to come by, wickets harder to get.
''You'll probably see run rates a bit lower," de Villiers
''You've got to fight at this ground for your rewards."
One school of thought is that St George's Park pitch bears
closest resemblance to New Zealand strips among the South
African grounds in its playing characteristics..
De Villiers, who made his test debut in Port Elizabeth nine
years ago, wouldn't go that far but made it clear his team
are expecting the visitors to be much more resilient rivals
than in Cape Town.
''They've always been a fighting team, never let go, never
say die, very similar to us.
''Unfortunately that first session (when New Zealand were
dismissed for 45) cost them a bit."
New Zealand don't have to contend with the injured Vernon
Philander in Port Elizabeth, but his replacement, Rory
Kleinveldt, has a good record in limited appearances at the
ground and is determined to make his mark.
''The (pre-Christmas) Australian tour was very important for
me, a very tough learning curve. I'm just happy to get
another chance," he said.
Be patient, generally bowl straighter than at Newlands and
expect to have to toil more for the wickets is his thinking
on what to expect at St George's Park.
Kleinvelt joined the New Zealand admiration society, too,
reckoning they batted ''really well" in the second innings at
''Their confidence will be quite high coming off that so
we've got to be on the money come Friday."
New Zealand will look at South Africa's record at Port
Elizabeth and get some solace.
Their hosts have lost the last three tests at the ground, and
have won just eight and lost 11 of 23 tests at the ground.
- David Leggat of the New Zealand Herald in Port