What now for the Black Caps?Save
By David Leggat
The eight-wicket thumping New Zealand copped from South Africa has thrown up a raft of issues for them to ponder before the series-deciding final test at Hamilton starting on Saturday.
Several New Zealand players should be fingering the worry beads after of the team naming for a game New Zealand must win to avoid finishing the summer on a grim note.
But it's a complicated sheet New Zealand's selectors Mike Hesson and Gavin Larsen are looking at.
Among the points to consider are:
1: What to do about Tom Latham at the top of the order
Lefthander Latham has had a wretched run of form. In the three test innings, his contributions have been 10, 8 and 6. Now throw in an ODI run of 4,7,0,0,2,0 and the depth of the hole he's in is clear.
But remember Latham is a respected senior figure of their leadership group. He hit a big century at the Basin, albeit against Bangladesh, in his last test on the ground, plus a brisk ODI ton against the same team on Boxing Day.
He's been found out by deliveries angled across him which have left him hoping to hit towards cover, without looking totally convincing, rather than biding his time and waiting for the seamers to come to him.
Expect him to stay. Firstly he's a top class batsman, test average 38.64, in a jam. The South Africans may see him as a walking wicket, but more likely he'll be told to go away for a few days and fix his problems, hopefully with some technical assistance, rather than be dropped for what would be a one-off punt on someone else.
Remember New Zealand's next test isn't until late this year. Also the selectors pride themselves on a bit of loyalty. Some frankly ludicrous options were coming out of the Sky commentary box yesterday afternoon.
2: Did Neil Broom do enough on debut to hold his spot?
This presupposes Ross Taylor isn't fit to return, which is most likely the case after his minor calf tear.
Broom was out of luck in his first innings duck - a combination of a fine ball from Kagiso Rabada and brilliant catch by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock doing for him.
Second time around he looked to be settling in nicely before falling to a good ball from Morne Morkel, just after the fateful second session began.
Someone has to bat No 4. A hunch would have Broom being given another opportunity.
3: Who to leave out if left arm spinner Mitchell Santner is to be recalled
At Dunedin, New Zealand opted to omit Tim Southee and have Neil Wagner and Trent Boult as the only out and out frontline seamers, with lively, but erratic, Jimmy Neesham as support. Dropping Southee was possibly the most contentious decisions of Hesson's reign.
That allowed Santner to partner Patel. The veteran offspinner took four wickets to Santner's one and looked better value too.
By the sound of things, Seddon Park is likely to help spinners' more than the Basin Reserve was supposed to - even if someone forgot to tell the New Zealand batsmen, who got themselves in a tizz against the amiable offspin of part timer JP Duminy in the first innings, and left armer Keshav Maharaj in the second.
Might Neesham be vulnerable? His batting was ordinary in this test. Then again, so was that of Colin de Grandhomme.
The former Zimbabwean bowled handily, whereas Neesham is a bit hit and miss. Whichever way you slice it, there doesn't seem room for both, if Santner and Patel are included in the XI.
One, however, may be needed as third seamer if the selectors decide to dispense with either Southee or Wagner. Which brings us to....
4: If Trent Boult is fit, what then?
Now things get interesting. If Boult is fit he must play in Hamilton.
The Dunedin selection was a showing of the selectors' hands. Southee is a senior player in the side, part of the inner sanctum. If they were prepared to dump him in Dunedin, why not in Hamilton, if he can't be fitted in?
The selectors like the bustle and never-say-die qualities of Neil Wagner, plus his record of late is outstanding. If the Seddon Park strip looks a spinny job how does Boult, Wagner, Patel, Santner and some of de Grandhomme or Neesham sound?
Alternatively they could look at Boult, Southee, Wagner, Patel and Santner, a full hand of specialists, but that has wicketkeeper BJ Watling or Santner batting at No 6. Not ideal.
A fascinating few days of planning lies ahead, but plenty at stake.