Our worst fears are realised – South Africa’s shocker across the ditch is bringing Test cricket into disrepute
No disrespect to Rachin Ravindra or Kane Williamson, who together put on a Test batting masterclass at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, but to call their opposition underwhelming whould be a huge overstatement.
South Africa’s ‘D’ side were simply hapless from start to finish with both bat and ball and the nature mismatch was disrespectful to the paying New Zealand public and to fans of Test cricket in general.
The reality is this South African side isn’t a 2nd XI, or arguably even a 3rd XI but a mix of county cricket journeymen, average first class cricketers and a couple of promising enough youngsters that may eventually be quality players, but still a long way off.
This is due to the fact that South African Cricket prioritised a domestic T20 competition, a second rate one at that, over International Test cricket, and it just sums up the complete hole Test cricket has fallen into in South Africa.
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) February 6, 2024
New Zealand were professional with the way they went about it and while Ravindra showed us all what a talent he is, it looked as easy as you could’ve imagined. On a flat wicket, South Africa’s attack of plodding medium pacers were ground into the dust by the Wellingtonian and it amazingly took a 6 wicket haul from their ‘captain’, a part time left arm spinner by the name of Neil Brand (who was himself making his test debut) to finally bowl the Kiwis out for 511.
If South Africa weren’t at the very least going to take this test series somewhat seriously, the question has to be asked why they bothered coming at all? It’s effectively a training drill for the Kiwis before the big series against Australia – but couldn’t they have just hosted the Aussies for a four Test series instead of wasting two Tests against a non-opposition?
New Zealand Cricket loses money on every Test match they host, which is why the Australian series is limited to just two Test matches. They only host four Tests in their entire test summer – for the cricket loving public to have half of these against a team that isn’t of International standard is completely disrespectful and should’ve be called out far more strongly than it has been across the ditch.
Day 3 comes to a close with a lead of 528 runs. Kane Williamson (109) following his 30th Test century in the 1st innings with his 31st in the team’s second innings. Catch up on all scores | https://t.co/bum67WNaOD ????#NZvSA #CricketNation pic.twitter.com/rzhPOiFK1r
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) February 6, 2024
You can’t really fault South Africa’s cobbled-together group of journeymen for their poor performances, they’ve performed as you’d probably expect them to. It’s the South African Cricket Board that need to come under fire, and the ICC for allowing them to do it.
I couldn’t care less if the T20 league is important in South Africa – if your national team is going to play Test cricket during that same period, your best players should be playing in those Tests, no exceptions. It’s why barely any of Australia’s national stars play BBL – thankfully, at least for now, Test cricket still remains the priority, as it should.
If you can’t send your best team then don’t schedule the series, or change the timing of your T20 league if you must – a situation like this mustn’t be allowed to happen.
The ICC has to take some blame for this farce as well. They’ve been strong backers of the South African League and have allowed this situation to happen under their watch. If they continue with this ho-hum attitude towards Test cricket and scheduling, then scenes like this will continue to occur.
Make no mistake – this isn’t even similar to the West Indies, who at least sent a young side full of promising players to Australia. All of South Africa’s promising youngsters are all still playing domestic cricket as well while their national side gets embarrassed in New Zealand.
The ICC should be calling this out and threatening Test bans for countries like South Africa if they keep treating Test cricket with disrespect. It’s still the oldest and most important form of cricket and considering these matches are for World Test Championship points, it also threatens competitive integrity.
We can only hope this South African side lifts their levels to something well above what looks like their capabilities, but three days in this series already looks like a fizzer. What makes this even more is incredible is New Zealand have never beaten South Africa in a Test series ever, home or away. South Africa have chucked that record in the bin and set fire to it, as they have to any ideas that they still care about the long format of the game.
Hopefully as somewhat of a consolation the New Zealand public are treated to a cracker of a series against the Aussies, with tests in Wellington and Christchurch in early March. One only wishes that we were going there sooner, to give their test summer a much needed boost.