South Africa captain Faf du Plessis admits what to do at the toss will be another difficult decision on Saturday morning as the second and decisive Test against New Zealand starts at SuperSport Park in Centurion, and his options have been further clouded by an injury to opening batsman Dean Elgar on the eve of the game.
Elgar stepped on the boundary rope and twisted his ankle during the Proteas’ training session on Thursday and is going to undergo intensive overnight treatment before a decision is made on Saturday morning as to his availability. The gritty left-hander had to be helped to the changeroom after the incident but is reportedly reasonably confident that he will be fit to play.
Stiaan van Zyl is going to slot back into the opening position if Elgar does not recover enough to play.
Either way, it seems whoever opens the batting could be going out to do battle from the outset if South Africa win the toss, with Du Plessis seemingly tending towards batting again, as he did in the first Test in Durban, judging by his comments on Thursday.
“Kingsmead was a great cricket wicket, there was something for the bowlers and if you knuckled down as a batsman, the runs were there as well. The pitch here looks a touch soft and moist, so the toss will be similar to in Durban – a tough decision. We need to look at all situations, like in Durban this wicket is green but should be slower and then speed up.
“Obviously the sun then plays a different role and sunshine is expected for all five days. Generally, batting here on day five is challenging because the pitch gets up-and-down, but then on day one you have to deal with a bit of green grass. But we have a great record here and we can fall back on that confidence, we can trust that whatever the situation, we can make the best of it,” Du Plessis said.
Lack of confidence is like a cancer and South Africa’s batsmen certainly did not dispel all the demons of the last year at Kingsmead, but Du Plessis still feels they are all in good form.
“The atmosphere in the squad feels good and there’s a good energy. Everyone looks in great form and there are a lot of positives to build on from the first Test, we just need to be more consistent with our batting. But we only scored 263 not because of the conditions – we just needed one batsman to score a hundred and then we would have reached 300, which would have been a good core on that pitch. We always used to get hundreds when we were a healthy Test side,” Du Plessis said.
New Zealand have the type of attack though that can exploit any weaknesses in confidence or temperament, and Neil Wagner, born and raised in Pretoria, is surely eagerly awaiting this Test.
“Neil has been outstanding for us for a long period of time, particularly on surfaces that don’t offer a lot. He uses creative tactics while Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell look to exploit whatever seam and swing there is,” New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said.