Cape Town – New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum will face a double challenge when his team take on world champions South Africa in the first Test at Newlands on Wednesday.
Handed the captaincy in controversial circumstances, McCullum confirmed on Tuesday that he will also open the batting in the absence of the injured Peter Fulton.
“Peter was going to open but he has been struck down by an injury. That gives an opportunity to Dean Brownlie,” McCullum said.
“I'll come back to the top of the order and Dean will come in at number four. I've been opening the batting for the last little while and you've got to bat at some point,” he said of the challenge of facing South Africa's formidable pace trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
Told that Philander had passed a fitness test after being a doubtful starter because of a hamstring injury, McCullum said: “He's an excellent bowler. His stats have been phenomenal but from our point of view we're playing against a very good cricket team so we expect them to have very good cricketers in their side.”
New Zealand's three leading batsmen will fill the first three positions in the order. Martin Guptill will open with McCullum, while Kane Williamson will bat at number three.
“Martin's been in good form and hopefully we can establish a pretty good partnership up front,” said McCullum.
He praised Williamson, who scored a century in the final Test in Wellington last year, as one of New Zealand's up and coming stars.
“He's got a lot of cricket intelligence for a young guy. He's popular in the team and he works hard on his game. He ticks a lot of boxes and we're hopeful that he's going to have a big series.”
McCullum acknowledged that his team had a difficult task with a side weakened by injuries to several players and the absence of former captain Ross Taylor, who withdrew from the tour.
“It's a huge challenge but with that challenge comes a great opportunity to play against a very good cricket team, the number one team in the world. That's why you play the game,” he said.
“If we can look back (afterwards) and say we've done a very good job and put them under pressure this can be a catalyst for long-term performances for us a cricket team.”
The New Zealand captain said his players could take heart from their performances in a three-match home series in which they were beaten 1-0 by South Africa in New Zealand last year.
“We pushed them quite hard in that series and put them under pressure at times. We've just got to make sure we get better and compete for longer in this series.” – AFP