Wellington: Sportsmen are taught Aristotle's philosophy of "one swallow does not a summer make," in an attempt to ensure they don't get carried away by isolated performances. Most of the time, it's a sensible way to assess results. The Wellington Test match could be one of those times when it isn't. It is the concluding chapter of the summer for both teams, and will serve as a decent indicator of where each of them are after a season of hard graft.
For New Zealand, a fightback and a victory will end their season on a high after it started, filled with promise against Australia and sprinkled with authority over Zimbabwe. New Zealand were careful to treat their whitewash of Zimbabwe with sobriety and not read too much into the results, knowing that South Africa would be tougher opponents. Just how tough, only emerged later.
Since winning the first T20 on February 17, New Zealand have been on the back foot. Even the drawn Test in Dunedin was thought of to have meant more for South Africa as it would have required a record-breaking effort from the hosts to emerge victorious. Wellington was where New Zealand started the series, with a victory, and they look to end it here with victory as well.
South Africa will use the New Zealand tour as a springboard to the rest of their travels this year, which include a top-of-the-table Test clash against England and a series in Australia. They cannot lose the series, which will keep their record as world cricket's best travellers since 2007 intact. In almost every department, bar their first innings showings with the bat, South Africa have looked a complete unit. Morne Morkel said they feel ready to play "the perfect Test match," which involves one massive innings and bowling the opposition out twice. If they get that right, they will leave New Zealand with having achieved everything they set out to do.
Form guide (most recent first)
New Zealand LDWWL
South Africa WDWLW
Players to watch
Daniel Flynn last represented New Zealand in December 2009, in the middle order. He will make his comeback as an opener, coming off three consecutive first-class centuries. Although the batting line-up should not depend entirely on him for an improved showing, they will certainly be looking to him for a solid start. New Zealand's highest opening stand in the series so far has been 16 and Flynn will need to combine with Martin Guptill for many more runs than that if he hopes for a longer stint in Test cricket than Rob Nicol had.
He is the bowler almost everyone is talking about and Vernon Philander cannot seem to put a foot wrong. Philander has collected 15 wickets in the series so far, at an average of 14.33, and if he takes five in the Wellington Test he will be the fastest South African to 50 Test wickets and the fastest for almost 116 years. Philander should continue to make use of subtle seam movement and exemplary lines but it will be interesting to see how he deals with the fierce winds at the Basin Reserve.
New Zealand will include a sixth specialist batsman to prop up their line-up. Nicol was dropped from the squad after the Hamilton Test and Flynn will open in his place. Dean Brownlie has recovered from a broken finger and will slot in at No.6, meaning that Daniel Vettori and Kruger van Wyk will drop one place lower. The new-look batting card will mean New Zealand are forced to leave out one of their seamers and field a three-pronged attack consisting of Chris Martin, Mark Gillespie and Doug Bracewell.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daniel Flynn, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Kane Williamson, 6 Dean Brownlie, 7 Daniel Vettori, 8 Kruger van Wyk (wk), 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Mark Gillespie, 11 Chris Martin
Graeme Smith confirmed that there is unlikely to be any changes to the South African XI. Marchant de Lange, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, JP Duminy and Robin Peterson will continue to serve drinks.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis 5 AB de Villiers/JP Duminy, 6 Jacques Rudolph, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
The Basin pitch was ready to play on four days ago as the groundstaff anticipated wet weather in the lead up to the match. The sun came out on Thursday though, giving the curator Brett Sipthorpe a few hours to allow his surface to dry. He uncovered it for the first time since Sunday and revealed a patchy looking surface that started to even out the more it was rolled. It is being talked of as a good cricket surface, with enough in it for bowlers and batsmen alike. The match could well be interrupted by rain, with scattered showered forecast for the weekend. Conditions will be made more challenging by the strong northerly wind which is set to blow across the ground for the first two days.
Stats and trivia
New Zealand's highest partnership was scored at the Basin Reserve, a 467-run third-wicket stand between Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones in January 1991. Mark Boucher is five dismissals away from completing 1,000 dismissals across all formats in the international game
We're one-nil down in the series we know that were not far away from competing with this side. We've been on top in a few situations we just haven't been able to ram it home. Ross Taylor hopes New Zealand can play to their potential in the final match of the series
I'd like to see us keep that curve going up. We'd like to round off with a comprehensive performance in the next five days.
South Africa want to leave New Zealand on a winning note, as Graeme Smith emphasised