With Port Elizabeth covered in grey skies, the humidity levels rising and a harbour dominating one end of the city, the New Zealand cricket side could be forgiven for thinking they were back home. The Black Caps, who arrived here on Tuesday to prepare for the second Test against South Africa starting at St Georges’ Park on Friday, will certainly take solace from any comforts at this stage.
They were man-handled within three days in the first Test in Cape Town, where the Proteas fast-bowling unit inflicted scars that Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum admitted “will stay with us forever”. They will therefore graciously accept all the hospitality of the Friendly City, where according to Proteas left-arm spinner Robin Peterson, even the surface at the oldest Test ground in South Africa could be what the tourists are more accustomed to.
“I expect the Kiwis to probably feel more at home here at St George’s than anywhere else in this country,” Peterson said. “The conditions at St George’s probably dictate that the game will go the distance.”
Peterson certainly believed McCullum’s men will pose a far greater challenge here in Port Elizabeth. After being routed for 45 in their first innings at Newlands, Dean Brownlie led the fightback with a courageous maiden Test century. It could not prevent an innings defeat though, which led to New Zealand coach Mike Hesson conducting two days of intensive net sessions at Newlands on what would have been the remaining two days of the Test.
“It's not going to be easy,” said Peterson. “I think New Zealand in the second half of the first Test put up a bit of a fight and that's the nature of the Kiwis. For what they might lack in the player pool, they make up in the determination and a bit of guts out on the park.”
There are few players in South Africa who are more in tune with the conditions here than Peterson. The 33-year-old hails from Port Elizabeth - all his close relatives including his parents still live here - and learnt his cricket down at Galvandale Cricket Club before graduating through the ranks with Eastern Province. Growing up Peterson “watched a lot of Test matches being played here over the years” and he was immensely proud on Tuesday to be on the cusp on playing a maiden Test before his own people.
“It's always nice for the players to come here. It's a great atmosphere. I'm finally part of it and hopefully I can put up a performance that I can be proud of,” he said.
According to Peterson, his desires could be dictated by the prevailing wind during the Test.
“Hopefully it is not a gale-force this weekend,” Peterson chirped before continuing more seriously. “The little Easterly breeze that comes over the scoreboard is obviously the ideal one for the spinner, even for the fast bowlers for that matter.
“I know when the easterly blows, there is a little more swing for the bowlers on offer. It also assists the spinner, especially the left-arm spinner where it creates drift coming into the batter for the ball spin sharply away. That is the ideal wind for the spinner.”
Peterson expects to play a bigger role this weekend, especially with star opening bowler Vernon Philander being ruled out of the second Test due to a recurring hamstring problem. Although Peterson has full confidence in Rory Kleinveldt, who will deputise for Philander, he knows that there will be a greater responsibility on him to make a telling contribution.
“I am preparing to bowl in every innings and while I am doing that I’m happy. I’m not taking anything for granted, anybody can have a bad day, even a world-class attack like we have, so I need to be ready to my job,” he added. - Cape Argus