Latham just looking to 'pick up WTC points' against South Africa despite closing in on historic win

By Sports Desk February 24, 2022

Tom Latham insists the priority will be World Test Championship points when New Zealand face South Africa in the second and final Test of their series at the Hagley Oval on Thursday.

After thrashing the tourists in the first Test by an innings and 276 runs in just seven sessions, New Zealand will clinch their first ever Test series win against the Proteas should they avoid defeat in Christchurch.

However, Latham is keen for his team to keep their eyes on the prize they won last year, and not simply play for a draw to ensure a historic series win.

The Black Caps' stand-in captain, speaking at a media conference ahead of the second Test, said: "On the whole for us it's about the WTC and you get as many points as possible.

"Points at home are really vital. Nowadays in international cricket it's so hard to win away from home, so points in your own country are really important."

When asked about the possibility of playing for a draw, he added: "Yeah, if you look back a few years ago, where you know this wasn't the case, we had series which, if you won 1-0 then that was cool.

"But I guess nowadays the context that the WTC has had has been great for Test cricket and it just shows that you need to win every game, and that will be our challenge."

New Zealand are in sixth place in the WTC points table, with 46.66 percentage points after five matches. Following this series, their Test side travels to England and Pakistan.

South Africa will be looking for drastic improvement on their feeble showing in the first Test, where they scored just 95 and 111 in their two innings and allowed the hosts to amass 482 runs in reply.

Remarkably, it was New Zealand's first Test match victory against the Proteas since 2004, and they have lost 13 out of the last 16 series between the two, including the most recent six.

No Williamson? No Boult? No problem

Kane Williamson remains sidelined by injury, though New Zealand's batting hardly seemed to suffer without their regular captain, and coach Gary Stead confirmed Trent Boult will also miss out again.

The pace bowler missed the first Test as he was awaiting the birth of his third child, and Stead feels he has not had enough time in the nets since returning to be considered here.

"[He] is not in a position to be available with his loads and where he's at," Stead said.

"Since his wife has been having the baby, he's missed out on a lot of opportunities to play cricket and bowl. We just felt the risk of him playing was far too great at the moment."

Ngidi ruled out again

Although an inability to put runs on the board was a major factor in the first Test defeat – the second-biggest in South Africa's history – it was also frustrating for them to see New Zealand do so with relative ease.

South Africa certainly missed the bowling of Lungi Ngidi, and unfortunately will be without the 25-year-old again.

"Because he hasn't been able to bowl last week, I don't think his bowling loads are up to the standard of preparing for Test matches," Proteas captain Dean Elgar said to reporters regarding Ngidi, who missed the first Test with a back issue.

"He hasn't been training with us, he's only been bowling off a short run-up, which has been a bit of a setback for us. We know Lungi's been a key figure in our bowling line-up. So it's a bit disappointing that he's in the situation that he's in now."

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