Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Proteas coach just about ‘certain’ of playing XI for first Kiwi Test

Keegan Petersen is the most recent Proteas regular in the team, having made his debut in 2021 and played 12 Tests since then.

The understrength Proteas Test team that is gearing up for the massive challenge of taking on hosts New Zealand in the first Test at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui from Sunday is as prepared as they will ever be, according to head coach Shukri Conrad.

The Proteas just completed a three day warm-up game against a New Zealand XI on Wednesday, which ended in a draw at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in Lincoln, and they will now head to Mount Maunganui before getting in their final few sessions ahead of the match. There are two Tests in the series.

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Keegan Petersen is arguably the most recent Proteas regular in the team, having made his debut in 2021 and played 12 Tests since then, his last being against India at Centurion this past December.

Duanne Olivier is the most experienced player having played 15 Tests since his debut in 2017, his last coming against Bangladesh in 2022.

Test experience

Other players including Dane Piedt, Khaya Zondo, Zubayr Hamza, David Bedingham and Dane Paterson all have Test experience, but in the single digits, and the team will be led by Neil Brand who is set to make his debut.

Despite the massive challenge that they face Conrad is extremely happy where the team is at and believes they are ready as ever for the match.

“I think we have pretty much ticked all our boxes in terms of our preparation. We fly out to Mount Maunganui tomorrow (Thursday) and unless we encounter very different conditions to what is usually there, we are pretty comfortable and certain of a starting XI,” said Conrad on Wednesday.

“But it will be premature of me to suggest how we are going to go and what balance we are going to go with since we haven’t seen what conditions are there yet.

“But we have prepped really well for this tour. The prep started all the way back in November with a series against the West Indies A. The time spent here in New Zealand and the facilities has been nothing short of fantastic.

“So we are very happy with where we are at. We have a good feel among the group as well and where I sit as a head coach I feel we are as well prepared as we will ever be.”

Warm-up match

In the three day warm-up match the Proteas batted first and scored 339, with 11 players getting a bat and only five wickets falling, while six batters retired not out.

Brand faced the most balls, scoring 46 off 85 before retiring, while Raynard van Tonder, 54 off 47, Ruan de Swardt, 53 off 78, Zondo, 42 off 51, Petersen, 37 off 61, and Hamza, 30 off 43, also got in some batting practice before retiring as well.

The New Zealand XI responded with 294 and only one batter retiring not out, Leo Carter after he scored 100 off 192 balls, while their captain Bharat Popli backed him up with 89 off 177.

Paterson, 4/34, was the pick of the Proteas bowlers and Brand backed him up with 2/32, while Olivier, Piedt, De Swardt and Mihlali Mpongwana all picked up a wicket each.

The Proteas second innings reached 91/2 with three retired not outs and Clyde Fortuin top scoring with 30 off 53 balls, when the teams shook hands on the draw.

Conrad explained that the game was never about how many runs the players or team scored, it was all about getting as many players time out in a match situation as possible.

“It was never about the amount of runs (scored). It was all about the work we had put in prior to the three day match and then also for the guys to get out of the match what they wanted,” said Conrad.

“One or two of them had to be coerced into getting off the ground,” he said with a smile. “But for me warm-up matches are all about how you are feeling. If you feel you are in a good space from a technical side then we are happy.”

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