DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP) — South Africa captain Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat on Wednesday in the first test against New Zealand at the University Oval.
Du Plessis admitted being "confused" about what the pitch might do over the course of the match, especially after seeing New Zealand had included two spinners in its lineup. While the pitch looked well-grassed, it is expected to be slow and to provide only minimal assistance to faster bowlers.
Despite that, South Africa named paceman Morne Morkel in its lineup which also includes seamers Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada, along with left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. Morkel has had a year-long battle with a back injury and played his most-recent test in January, 2016.
New Zealand sprang a surprise by omitting its senior fast bowler Tim Southee while retaining Trent Boult and Neil Wagner as its frontline seamers, supported by allrounder James Neesham. Off-spinner Jeetan Patel returns to the test lineup with allrounder Mitchell Santner providing a left-arm spin option.
New Zealand has won both of its test series at home this season, against Pakistan and Bangladesh, while South Africa is coming off recent series wins over Sri Lanka and Australia.
The current match is the first in a three-test series.
New Zealand: Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Kane Williamson (captain), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, James, Neesham, B.J. Watling, Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner, Jeetan Patel, Trent Boult.
South Africa: Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (captain), J.P. Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada.