The number of South African born cricketers contracted in New Zealand has now cracked the required number for a full team. So if they were put up against the Black Caps, who would win?
The number of South African born sportspeople who have left their country to pursue their dreams continues to increase, and cricket is arguably the sport in which this trend has been most pronounced, with the likes of Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pieterson, Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, and many more going on to play international cricket for England against South Africa. And South Africans been turning up in big numbers in New Zealand too – it’s now common to hear South African accents on playing fields all over the country in summer. In fact, when South Africa toured New Zealand last year, at one point in the Dunedin test all 13 players on the field were South African.
There are now 13 professional cricketers in New Zealand who were born in South Africa. That’s enough for a team, a substitute fielder, and someone to run drinks out. A few of them are among the most valuable players in the Black Caps, a few more could one day be on that level once they qualify for New Zealand, and a few more are solid journeymen, plugging away on the domestic circuit.
So who are they? How good are they? And if they all got together, could they beat the Black Caps?
Here’s the methodology: The Black Caps team will be their most likely current XI, assuming everyone is fit, with South African born players ruled ineligible for the purpose of our experiment. We’ll face off openers, middle order batsmen, all-rounders/spinners (because it works as a like for like comparison) keepers, and quick bowlers. And the format is test cricket, because fans don’t get to see enough of it, so we may as well invent some more to keep busy with.
NZ South Africans
BJ Watling and Malcolm Nofal. Please restrain your screaming about the first one – yes, BJ Watling started his test career as an opener, and it didn’t really work out. He found his niche as a gritty number 7, also holding the gloves. But someone has to do it, and options here are scarce. As for Nofal, he’s a little known but very promising limited overs opener, who most recently cracked 179 for Wellington against CD in a first class game. So consider this a promotion.
Jeet Raval and Tom Latham. Weirdly for the Black Caps, the opening partnership is relatively, sort of settled, for now. They both average in the high 30s in tests, and on their day are more than capable of seeing off the new ball. Raval has a conversion problem – he’s hit six test 50s and no hundreds. But for the Black Caps, a half-century from the top of the order is better than could reasonably be expected.
A narrow edge here for the Black Caps.
NZ South Africans
Devon Conway, Chad Bowes, Craig Cachopa. The inspiration for this thought experiment was actually Devon Conway, who is being talked up as the next South African Black Cap. And as this video from his time playing for the Lions in South Africa shows, he’s a serious hitter. Positions four and five are rounded out by Chad Bowes, who has had much more success in limited overs, and Craig Cachopa, who has a better first class average than the other two Cachopas.
Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls. Basically you’ve got two of the best batsmen in the world, and a reasonable grafter in Henry Nicholls. Is there much that needs to be said about Taylor and Williamson? Probably not, and provided they don’t run each other out, this is where serious totals can be accumulated.
A clear win for the Black Caps.
NZ South Africans
Colin Munro, Michael Rippon. This is an area where the South Africans could potentially lay waste to any and all opposition. Colin Munro is incredibly destructive with the bat, and certainly adequate with the ball. He gets out cheaply a lot, but when he gets in, he plunders – as evidenced by his first class batting average above 50, and strike rate just under 100. If he gets underway, the South Africans will have something to bowl at. His counterpart here Michael Rippon is an interesting case – a South African born, Netherlands representing cricketing traveller, he’s played all over the world. He’s a very tidy left arm chinaman bowler (we really need a new word for that) and has useful numbers as a lower order batsman.
Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme. Before injury cut his season short, Mitchell Santner was quickly becoming one of the first names on the team sheet for the Black Caps. His batting is developing, and he seems to be on the cusp of one big innings to kickstart that part of his game. As for de Grandhomme – born and bred in Zimbabwe – he can be devastating with the ball on pitches that offer nibble, and has become a wild card with the bat as he has grown in confidence.
Too close to call, and if Munro fires, a slight edge to the NZ South Africans.
NZ South Africans
There’s a few options here for NZ SA, but there clear choice is Glenn Phillips. He’s been preferred in T20s for the Black Caps so far, but in 10 first class matches so far, he’s already got two centuries and three 50s. Given he’s 21, there’s clearly a lot of talent there.
A lot of the other players who could take this spot have been picked in other areas, so Tom Blundell gets the nod. He’s a promising young player who has had limited international opportunities, but did manage to score both a century, and a commemorative stump, from his debut test.
This area is why this game needs to happen, given both Phillips and Blundell are effectively in direct competition for the spot when Watling hangs up the gloves. Too close to call.
NZ South Africans
Neil Wagner, Warren Barnes, Danru Ferns. Neil Wagner is obviously the team’s key player. He has an astonishing knack of picking up wickets when nothing else is going, and in recent seasons has been arguably more valuable to the Black Caps’ team cause than more fashionable thoroughbreds like Tim Southee and Trent Boult. He’s currently ranked ninth in the world, just behind Boult in fact.
However, the other bowlers he shares the new ball with aren’t quick so flash. Warren Barnes hasn’t yet had many opportunities, though in fairness he’s taken them – in two first class matches, he averages 11 with the ball. Danru Ferns has also only played a few first class games, and he’s performed fine, if not spectacularly, most memorably picking up a few second innings wickets to help Auckland to a tight win over Canterbury.
Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Matt Henry. Hooray for Matt Henry, who finally gets a game! He’ll probably respond by taking ten wickets in the match, and then getting dropped for the next one. As for Tim Southee and Trent Boult, they’re arguably the most fearsome new ball combination in the world.
Even with Neil Wagner banging it in short for 17 overs in a row, this one is a clear and unambiguous win for the Black Caps.
So who wins the game?
Let’s model a scenario as to how this game plays out:
The South Africans bat first, and are quickly reduced to 30-4, with BJ Watling on 5*, wondering where the rest of his batting partners have gone. Colin Munro comes to the crease and starts hitting, and the team recovers to 250-5 by the middle of the second session, with BJ Watling still not out on 15. But the lower order crumbles, and they end up all out for 280. Watling is the last man out, with 17.
The Black Caps bat, and progress serenely until both Latham and Raval are caught at short leg off the bowling of Wagner. Kane Williamson comes in and scores a century, but forgets to celebrate it. Ross Taylor gets caught trying to slog sweep Michael Rippon. The rest of the innings is a procession of solid starts that aren’t converted into big scores, with the Black Caps finishing all out for 350.
The South Africans come back in near the end of day 2, and are quickly demolished with the new ball. By the end of the day, they’re six wickets down and still 50 runs behind. Boult, Southee and Henry all have two each, and the slips are laughing like jackals whenever another catch comes their way. As stumps are called, the game seems all but over.
Then it rains for three days straight, and the game is a draw. Hopefully everyone is happy with that outcome of the one match test series.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.