Cape Town – New Zealand cricket coach Mike Hesson knows it will be challenging to face South Africa again, but he says they were not quite prepared for the rude awakening they received at the start of the first Test match.
The Proteas crushed the tourists by an innings and 27 runs in the first Test in Cape Town last week, after bowling out the Black Caps for 45 runs in the first innings.
“At the end of the first day, if we didn’t already know we were in for an extremely tough game, we certainly realised it pretty quickly,” Hesson said at the weekend.
“We all knew it would be very hard coming into the Test, but the reality hit home after the first morning.”
After the Black Caps were dimissed in 19.2 overs, spending exactly 100 minutes at the crease, Hesson said they had picked themselves up and decided to deal with the disaster another time, opting to move on with the battle rather than falling to pieces.
“We knew we had to be pretty strong mentally and we showed that at the end of the game,” he said.
“The match was dictated by the first couple of hours and from that point on we were largely competitive, but that horror session had already set up the game.”
Asked whether they made a mistake opting to bat first after winning the toss, Hesson insisted they had given the decision careful consideration beforehand.
“We looked at the wicket and chatted to the groundsman and to a lot of locals. We also communicated with the coaching staff and senior players and we knew it wasn’t an easy decision,” he said.
“We saw the nature of the cracks and recalled last year’s Test when Sri Lanka put South Africa in to bat and they ended up making 580.
“According to reports, the cracks were even bigger than the year before, so it was a brave decision and, clearly, at lunch time we would have liked to have reversed it.”
While New Zealand’s downfall was largely due to some superb bowling from South Africa's attack, some of the touring batsmen were to blame for their shots.
“When you’re in that situation – in the process of being bowled out cheaply – it’s natural to go searching and try to get back into the game in a short space of time,” said the coach.
“No matter how much we talk about sticking to our game plan, the human element comes over and you want to try and fix the situation. Of course, if you do that, the game plan goes out the window.”
The Kiwis managed to pull it back, however, and had Proteas captain Graeme Smith out cheaply in the second over of South Africa’s innings.
They picked up a couple more wickets in the afternoon and restricted the home side’s run flow.
“We caught it back really nicely, taking those last five wickets for 93 before they declared. Clearly, in the circumstances, South Africa were playing with a bit of freedom but it gave us opportunities which we took,” Hesson said.
“In the second innings, the third-wicket partnership between Brendon McCullum and Dean Brownlie (89 runs off 81 balls) –
against a relentless attack – got us back in the game, and then the partnership between Brownlie and BJ Watling (74 off 122), against the consistently hostile attack, was as good as it gets.” – Sapa