After losing two of four home Tests, and the series in India, the defending Test world champions are precariously placed on the WTC table
“From 1-0 to here is quite disappointing on our front,” Latham said after the game. “We knew coming in that we had to front up again and we knew South Africa were going to bring their best. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stick with them for long enough [on day four] and get those breakthroughs. They were able to put a good score and then coming into our second innings, we couldn’t build partnerships, especially among our top four.”
“I think there were times throughout the Test match where momentum shifted from team to team,” Latham said. “We were able to stay with South Africa for long periods but they managed to get their heads in front yesterday with lower-order partnerships. From a batting point of view, we were unable to do that. If we were able to do that, things might have looked different. Both in the first and second innings.”
“Whatever Test it is, whether the first of a championship cycle or the last one, you always set out with the ambition of winning. So we now focus on the next Test match”
However, despite Maharaj’s success, Latham did not feel that New Zealand missed a spinner in their side and felt the best available XI had been put on the park.
“They were 200 ahead for five down [in South Africa’s second innings]. If we were able to get a couple of wickets then, things might have shifted right away in our favour,” Latham said. “The score they put on was obviously going to be tough to get on that wicket, especially with fresh bowlers.
“I don’t think we missed a spinner. Regardless of what side we put on, we have a way we like to go about things. Even though the wicket was slightly flatter, there wasn’t a huge amount of turn and we certainly thought we had a team that was good enough to win.
“Certainly happy with the side we have. We have full belief in the side we have and the XI we put out. From a batting point of view, in New Zealand, some surfaces – sometimes it is not easy, sometimes it is not your day, and I think we’ve shown over long periods of time that we can be successful on these wickets. We had a couple of guys missing who will come back to the squad and then we will reassess.”
With away tours of England and Pakistan to follow, along with a home series against Sri Lanka, New Zealand at sixth have their backs against the wall. However, Latham was gung-ho about claiming full points in England.
“As a whole, we had four Test matches in New Zealand and wanted to win them all, and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that. We played some good cricket in between and there were couple of games where we didn’t quite play our best,” he said. “We’ve got three Tests in England as our next tour and the goal there will be to win three Tests over there. From an England point of view, we played a couple of Tests over there last year [including the WTC final against India], so conditions are familiar.
“Obviously you set out to win every Test at home. When we head to England, it will be important we shift our focus to that and win that series over there. Whatever Test it is, whether the first of a championship cycle or the last one, you always set out with the ambition of winning. So we now focus on the next Test match.”
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx