South Africa aim to hit New Zealand with pace barrage

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2007, 11:08 [IST]
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South Africa will aim to strike hard at New Zealand's vulnerable top order in the first Test starting at the Wanderers Stadium.

South African coach Mickey Arthur said Tuesday he wanted a repeat of two seasons ago when the pace of Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn took South Africa to a 2-0 win in a three-Test series against the Black Caps.

Ntini and Steyn will again spearhead the South African attack in the first of two Tests and Arthur hinted that the aggressive Andre Nel may be preferred as a third pace bowler, which would mean veteran all-rounder Shaun Pollock again missing out on a place in the starting line-up.

Pollock was dropped for South Africa's recent series in Pakistan but was added to the eleven who played in Pakistan for the first home Test of the South African summer.

Arthur said he wanted to continue with the policy of picking the best specialists which had worked in Pakistan. "The players who won the series for us deserve to be rewarded," he said.

New Zealand's top order batsmen have struggled in two warm-up matches and there is concern about former captain Stephen Fleming, who suffered a thumb injury while fielding before last weekend's match against South Africa A.

Fleming batted briefly in the nets Tuesday. Coach John Bracewell said his star batsman was still feeling some discomfort but said he was confident Fleming would be able to play Thursday.

Bracewell added that he was not overly concerned about the poor form of his leading batsmen, pointing out that batting conditions had been difficult in the two lead-up games.

"We have at least spent some time in South Africa while the South Africans have only recently returned from Pakistan," he said.

Although the Wanderers pitch usually has good pace and bounce, Bracewell said his first impression was that it looked rather bare and dry.

New Zealand will offer a reasonable pace challenge to the hosts, with fast bowler Shane Bond a key player in what will be his first Test appearance against South Africa in a career dogged by injuries.

Arthur said he expected New Zealand's batsmen to perform better than they had in their first two games: "You can't read too much into practice games. The intensity is never the same as in Test matches."

While the New Zealand batsmen have struggled, with the team going down to an 85-run defeat against South Africa A in Potchefstroom last weekend, South Africa's batsmen were outstanding in Pakistan.

Leading run-scorer Jacques Kallis made three centuries and a fifty in four innings, scoring 421 runs and only being dismissed twice.

South Africa played a one-day series after the Tests but Arthur said he did not think it would be a problem for the team to switch back into Test mode.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Andre Nel, Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock.

New Zealand squad: Daniel Vettori (captain), Craig Cumming, Michael Papps, Stephen Fleming, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum, Shane Bond, Michael Mason, Iain O'Brien, Chris Martin, Lou Vincent, Mark Gillespie, Jeetan Patel.

Umpires: Mark Benson (ENG), Daryl Harper (AUS).

Match referee: Javagal Srinath.

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