‘South Africa can still trouble New Zealand’

This is the view of New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, ahead of their three-Test series away to South Africa, starting on April 15. Fleming said he expected a tough series against a battle-hardened South African side, even though the hosts were coming off a 3-0 series defeat. “South Africa will still be very tough, you don’t come here expecting anything less,” Fleming told reporters this week after the New Zealand team’s arrival in Johannesburg. “They’ve been playing a level of cricket which makes you hard because Australia push you to the limit. South Africa had some good performances in isolation, but they needed a bit more,” Fleming said. He said the form of paceman Makhaya Ntini, who took 19 wickets in the three Tests against Australia, had been the most impressive aspect of South Africa’s game. “The nature of their defeats was more interesting than the actual results, South Africa were by no means out of it. Makhaya Ntini bowled very well, it’s pretty clear that he’s in good form,” Fleming added. New Zealand’s own bowling spearhead, Shane Bond, is fully fit, while the Kiwis have paid extra attention to their top-order batting, expecting autumnal pitches in South Africa to be similar to home conditions. “New Zealand playing conditions are often green seamers so there are not too many guys volunteering to bat up top. So the top-order batting has been a problem going back a long time to John Wright and Bruce Edgar,” coach John Bracewell said. “But that’s why we’ve chosen two specialist openers and a specialist number three for this tour, guys who want the job in Michael Papps, Jamie How and Peter Fulton.” Meanwhile, Australian captain Ricky Ponting has said he did not think South Africa deserved to win any of the six Tests they have played against Australia in the past few months. South Africa drew the first Test in Perth, and lost the next five. “Some of the Tests have been closely fought, but I’m not sure South Africa got themselves into too many winning positions,” said Ponting. “I think we’ve been the ones who dictated the Test matches. We should have won in Perth, but South Africa put up a tremendous rearguard action to draw the match. “Sydney would be the one Test they could argue that they were probably in front of us and the weather, and the series the way it was, dictated their declaration ‘ but still we got the runs, for two or three wickets. “Some of the Tests have been close, but I don’t think South Africa deserved to win any of them,” said Ponting. South African captain Jacques Kallis ‘ standing in for Graeme Smith, who was unable to play in the third Test because of an injured finger ‘ said he did not think the results of the Tests were a fair reflection of the closeness of many of the matches. “I think we had more opportunities in Australia ‘ if we had held on to our catches, we could have done better in the tests in Australia ‘ but we’ve come a long way,” said Kallis. “We’ve made strides in Test cricket. We are still a long way behind Australia, but we are definitely moving forward. “You always want to play the best in the world. It’s been a long, hard challenge and to play against the best for four and a half months has been tough. You wake up, and you’re playing against the same guys, and you’ve got to be up and ready for the challenge and if you are not 100 percent, you get nailed. “We’ve got a new challenge with the series against New Zealand. It’ll be nice to see some black caps out there instead of the baggy green. So we’re looking forward to that challenge. There is the danger that we’ve been playing some very hard cricket, but we’ve got 10 days off, which means the guys can go away and get mentally prepared for New Zealand. “It’s a huge series for us. I think it’s a series that could define our season. We’re going to be taking it very seriously ‘ it’s a very big series for us,” said Kallis.

April 2006
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