Proteas pursue No 1 ranking

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DUNEDIN — South Africa (SA) will press their claim to the No 1 Test ranking when they begin a three-match series against New Zealand (NZ) today.

Ranked No 2 behind England, the Proteas have already demonstrated their superiority over eighth-ranked NZ in shorter formats, winning the Twenty20 (T20) series 2-1 and the one-day international series 3-0.

NZ is likely to be more competitive in the Test matches and will enter the first match with the same line-up that beat Australia by seven runs in its most-recent Test at Hobart in December.

SA has also been strengthened by the arrival of opener Alviro Petersen, batsman Jacques Rudolph, wicket-keeper Mark Boucher, fast bowler Vernon Philander and leg-spinner Imran Tahir.

Coach Gary Kirsten said the Proteas must make a quick mental transition from the short forms to Test cricket and adapt to conditions which will likely suit the NZ team.

“I think we have played better as the games have gone along, but it’s a new format and we need to make sure that we are mentally ready and up for it,” Kirsten said.

The SAs have had to cope with bitterly cold conditions since their arrival in this South Island city, but found a pitch at the picturesque University Oval that is likely to suit batsmen.

NZ will take a four-pronged pace attack into the match, relying on Tim Southee, Doug Bracewell, Chris Martin and left-armer Trent Boult to exploit seam movement and any swing available in a match likely to be played in overcast conditions.

Former captain Daniel Vettori, whose left-arm spin will also contribute to NZ’s rounded bowling attack, said the home team was not bearing any psychological wounds after their mauling in the T20 and one-day internationals.

Teams
New Zealand: Ross Taylor (capt), Brent Arnel, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Andrew Ellis, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Chris Martin, Rob Nicol, Tim Southee, Kruger van Wyk, Daniel Vettori, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, Marchant de Lange, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe. — Supersport