Proteas showed winning class
One of the things about being a winning test team is to compete successfully in foreign conditions. The surface that South Africa played New Zealand on in Dunedin was about as far removed from a typical South African surface that one can find anywhere. The pitch was low and slow, and run scoring was difficult. It was easy enough to survive but scoring at a decent rate was just about impossible. The way South Africa adapted to these conditions was commendable.
Dean Elgar's man-of-the-match performance was an excellent one by a player who is evolving into a very good opening batsman for South Africa. Elgar has plenty of guts and excellent powers of concentration and as his confidence grows at this level he is becoming more and more valuable to the Proteas cause.
From a bowling point of view, the South African quicker bowlers had little to work with during this match. After the initial session on day one, when the Kiwis bowled and the ball moved around off the seam and also through the air, bowling became a war of attrition. Apart from the surface itself the weather was freezing cold for much of the test and required further adjustment. It was like playing test cricket in mid-winter back home in South Africa, particularly on day four.
The spinners, as expected, were in the game. That was what the surface was designed for. The Black Caps have a healthy respect for Vernon Philander. This is no surprise because Philander has been brilliant against them over the years. They are scared of producing a surface that has something in it for Philander to exploit. That is why they are leaning towards these slow turning pitches.
The problem for the Black Caps is that when they produce these slow, low surfaces they don't give themselves a chance of winning either. They will find it difficult to bowl South Africa out twice on these benign pitches. In fact, in Dunedin, had the final day not rained out, the Proteas may well have bowled New Zealand out on that last day.
The Kiwis may as well leave something in the surface in an effort to bring the two teams closer together. At least that way they will give their pace bowlers an even chance of success and give South Africa something to think about. The current strategy of hoping for two draws and preparing a dust bowl in Hamilton for the final tests could backfire on them.
There has been a lot of rain all over New Zealand for the last week, including here in Wellington where the next test starts on Thursday. Even though the Black Caps are looking forward to another flat surface it may not quite work out that way. There will be more pace and bounce in this pitch, which will please the Proteas and ensure a faster scoring rate.
This will also be a problem for the frail New Zealand batting line up. Other than their captain Kane Williamson, who is a brilliant player, the absence now of the injured Ross Taylor will weaken them severely. Williamson is always under pressure to hold the batting line up together, and now with Ross Taylor not there this pressure will intensify.
The New Zealand captain can't do it every time for his team and sooner or later the Proteas will dismiss him cheaply and the frailty of the New Zealand batting line up will be exposed.
On the bowling front, the Black Caps are hoping that Trent Boult will be fit for the next test. He has a groin strain and at this point it is unlikely that he will play. Due to the fact that New Zealand only played two specialist seamers in that first test they over-bowled both Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, which led to the Boult injury.
I still think that sustained pressure from South Africa will lead to success in this series. It will be good if they win here in Wellington because the way things are shaping up the last test in Hamilton could be a shoot out on a spin top.