NZ vs SA 2022 – 1st Test


New Zealand beat South Africa by an innings and 276 runs without Williamson, Taylor or Boult

It’s been 14 years since New Zealand have had to play a Test match without Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Trent Boult. And yet they still managed to beat South Africa by an innings and 276 runs, a performance that the stand-in captain Tom Latham called “the perfect blueprint.”

“Yeah, it’s obviously great for the side,” he said. “It’s been documented it’s a long time ago since we haven’t seen any of those three names who are such a vital part of the side. I guess its testament to the depth that we’re creating to the depth in New Zealand cricket that guys who haven’t played a lot can step up and come up and perform straight away.”

Along the way, the one stalwart that they did have, got to a memorable milestone. Tim Southee overtook Richard Hadlee as the highest New Zealand wicket-taker on home soil. It took a while to become official though, with New Zealand needing to overturn a not-out lbw decision. But that also meant the 33-year-old had all his team-mates around him, waiting with him, for the big moment.

“Tim thought it was going down leg. So I was a little bit surprised that he didn’t want to use it. But with the nature of having a couple of reviews left in that situation [South Africa were nine down] it was a bit of a no-brainer to use it.

‘I guess it’s a unique scenario but it’s also a situation we’re used to nowadays with the DRS. Obviously, [it’s] great for us all to be together and certainly regardless of how you get it, it’s certainly a great way [to break the record]. So yeah, it’s been a Test match that we’re very proud of and one we’ll celebrate tonight.”

With Covid-19 still a threat, New Zealand has been dealing with stringent travel and quarantine restrictions, which resulted in a tour of Australia being postponed.

“Obviously, disappointing for that series to be called off,” Latham said. “I guess the guys have been playing different forms of cricket whether it be T20 cricket, one-day cricket or some first-class cricket over recent weeks. Even though we haven’t played a Test match for a month or so, I think the way we just switched back straight into the rhythm of Test cricket and hit the ground running, it was certainly the way you want to start and hopefully we can continue the momentum in the next Test match.”

It hasn’t been decided whether Boult, who is on paternity leave, will be back in time for that. Williamson is still recovering from a long-standing elbow injury. And Taylor has retired. So New Zealand may have to do without any of them again in the second Test against South Africa starting on February 25. But given they’ve just wrapped up their third-biggest win in the format, Latham feels it’s the kind of problem he doesn’t mind having as temporary caretaker.

“For me, it’s just about trying to fill this position as well I can. Certainly when Kane’s available, he’ll slip right back in. For me, it’s just about trying to continue what this group has been doing for such a long period of time. Got some great leaders amongst the group. Got some experience as well even, though we’ve lost some over the last couple of Test matches. But I guess trying to continue the formula that New Zealand cricket has produced over recent years and I guess I probably had my spin on things in terms of doing things slightly differently but I think as a whole it’s about continuing the blueprint as best I can. We’ve had some really good success recently and just trying to continue that.”

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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