Pitch report: Basin Reserve
Ends: Vance Stand End, Scoreboard End
Home Team: Wellington
Test History: 57 Tests; 16 home wins; 18 away wins; 23 draws
Last 10 Tests: 3 home wins; 3 away wins; 4 draws
Last 10 tosses: 2 batted first (1 win, 1 draw); 8 bowled first (2 wins, 3 defeats, 3 draws)
The Basin Reserve hosted its first Test in 1930, when openers Stewie Dempster and Jack Mills became the first New Zealanders to score Test tons in their stand of 276. England were the visitors on that occasion, and managed to hold on for a draw.
It wasn’t until 1969 that New Zealand tasted victory on their most beautiful ground (it’s protected by an Act of Parliament and is the only sports ground on New Zealand’s National Heritage list) when the West Indies were the visitors.
Nestled beneath Mount Victoria and Mount Cook, the Basin is a proper cricket ground, with a cracking sun-trap of a grass bank on the eastern side, which also offers shelter from the notoriously unpredictable southerly winds that can whip across the ground.
The Basin Reserve owes its existence to an 1855 earthquake that levelled out enough ground for a cricket field, and is the scene of many of New Zealand cricket’s finest moments: Sir Richard Hadlee took his 300th Test wicket here, while Martin Crowe (299) and Andrew Jones (186) put on 467 for the third wicket against Sri Lanka in 1990-1 – at that time a world record.
Last Time Out
New Zealand won the toss and inserted Bangladesh in January on what looked like a seamer’s paradise and were then made to toil as the Tigers smashed 595 for 8 declared.
The Black Caps replied with a huge total of their own as Tom Latahm smashed 177 to limit the Bangladesh lead to 56 runs.
The Test sprung into life when New Zealand bowled out Bangaldesh for 160 and then made short work of chasing a target of 216 with Kane Williamson smashing 104 not out off 90 balls.
Despite the green appearance Tim Southee feels the wicket will play true: “With the weather they have had over the last week, it hasn’t been ideal. There might be a little bit to offer with the surface early on but it tends to be a good cricket wicket.”
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis highlighted that the wind may be a factor at the Basin Reserve saying: “The New Zealanders will be used to playing in these conditions. We’ve got Port Elizabeth and Cape Town where the wind blows but it doesn’t quite feel like this.
“For guys who have to bowl into the wind, that’s the biggest challenge but for spinners it can also sometimes be a difficult thing to do and when batting it can work on your balance if you feel the wind is pushing you over.”
Happy Hunting Ground
Kane Williamson is rapidly closing in on the all-time record for runs scored at the Basin Reserve and barring a disastrous Test will move past Ross Taylor’s total of 883 runs to move into fifth on the list, while a half century will see him eclipse Stephen Fleming in half the number of Tests the former skipper took to get his 921 runs.
With Boult out injured Southee is the leading wicket-taker in the squad at this venue having grabbed 23 wickets in 9 test matches at the famous venue.
JP Duminy scored 103 on his last visit to the Basin back in 2012 while Hashim Amla chipped in with 63 in the first innings of that drawn Test.
Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel both claimed six-fors in that contest and the pair will no doubt fondly remember that outing.
While there may be cloud cover throughout the Test rain appears to be unlikely which will be a relief to both sets of players.
Bowling first here seems to be par for the course, to mix sporting metaphors, because the grass on the deck on day one can see a batting side skittled out cheaply, however the surface is true and quality players can bat for long periods.
Bowling on days one and two is generally preferred, and after that it flattens out for batsmen who can maintain concentration. Turn tends to arrive only late in the game.
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