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Home town boy Robin Peterson believes St George’s Park will suit New Zealand better than any South African ground, and expects tomorrow’s second test to go the distance.
It appears either a very bold statement, or a shameless promotion of Port Elizabeth’s first test in more than five years, but Peterson was nonetheless happy to be home. The left-arm spinner, who made his name in Eastern Province, is now the Proteas’ frontline tweaker after the struggles of legspinner Imran Tahir.
He expects the tourists will feel much more at home in this peaceful seaside city, and a slower, lower pitch at St George’s when the test starts at 9.30pm (NZ time).
“It’s not going to be easy for us. New Zealand showed in the second half of the game they put up a bit of a fight. That’s the nature of the Kiwis, what they might lack in the player pool they make up for in determination and a bit of guts that they put out on the park,” Peterson said.
“These conditions at St George’s probably dictate that the game will go the distance instead of what happened at Newlands.
“I’m expecting the Kiwis to be a little bit more at home at St George’s Park than they will anywhere else in the country.”
That task of being competitive was made slightly less daunting by South African seamer Vernon Philander’s withdrawal with a hamstring strain yesterday. His Cape Cobras team-mate, Rory Kleinveldt, will replace him and play his third test.
It’s been a curious test ground for South Africa, without the pace and bounce of the Wanderers, Centurion or Newlands. Their last test win here was against New Zealand, by seven wickets, in 2000.
Since then they have drawn with India, and lost three on the bounce against England (2004), and Pakistan and West Indies (both 2007).
Peterson said conditions could still assist the fast bowlers, with the sea breeze conducive to swing.
It seems wind is as much a factor here as in Wellington, and Peterson hinted that Bruce Martin, New Zealand’s left-arm spinner challenging hard for Jeetan Patel’s spot, might be suited, too.
“Hopefully it’s not a gale force this weekend. The little easterly breeze coming over the scoreboard is the ideal one you’d like to bowl in as a spinner and as a fast bowler. When the easterly blows there’s a bit of swing on offer for the bowlers and with the spinners … it assists with the drift coming into the batter and spinning sharply away,” he said.
“That’s the ideal wind to bowl in at St George’s but I’m sure the westerly will come up and that will flatten out the track and offer more challenges for the bowlers.”
It’s the first test in Port Elizabeth since 2007 so you would expect a big crowd, especially with tickets going for as little as R30 (NZ$4.30).
Still, New Zealand are hardly big box office drawcards, especially after their innings defeat in Cape Town, and the series sponsor is taking no chances. The local newspaper, The Herald, was offering 25 blocks of four free tickets yesterday.
– © Fairfax NZ News