New Zealand shot themselves in the foot - Piedt
New Zealand have done themselves a disservice by not trusting their seam strength, according to Dane Piedt. The South African offspinner joined the squad on Sunday, as a reinforcement in the spin department for the Hamilton Test, and said he was surprised by New Zealand conditions.
"I think they have shot themselves in the foot. They didn't back their seamers to do the job, and I thought their seamers bowled pretty well in South Africa. They bowled us out for 263 in Durban on quite a sporting deck," Piedt said. "I didn't expect that New Zealand would play two spinners in the first Test and when they left Tim Southee out I was also surprised. Just the fact that two series before that, Bangladesh and Pakistan were here and they played on surfaces that were quite sporting for the seamers. I expected it to be the same, but obviously with the type of seam attack we have they thought they would be under pressure."
In the four home Tests before this series, in which New Zealand were victorious in every one, their quicks contributed heavily to their success. They bowled Pakistan out four times out of four - twice under 180, twice under 240 - and bowled Bangladesh out three times out of four - twice under 180. In the Pakistan series, Tim Southee topped the wicket charts, followed by Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner. In the Bangladesh rubber, Trent Boult topped the bowlers' list, with Southee and Wagner next.
Piedt can't be blamed for expecting conditions to be prepared to favour those players but a combination of wet weather and slower venues have prevented New Zealand from tapping into that. Instead, they have gone the other way and two of the three surfaces for this series - Dunedin and Hamilton - are the complete opposite of seamer-friendly. Still, it was in Wellington, the greenest and bounciest of the tracks, that New Zealand succumbed to a spin threat they may have underestimated, which didn't even include Piedt.
They lost a dozen wickets to Keshav Maharaj and JP Duminy which selector Gavin Larsen called the "most disappointing thing" about their eight-wicket defeat. "You couldn't call that Basin deck a raging, turning deck. Maharaj, to his credit, bowled nicely with control and put the ball in the right areas but I don't think it was overly threatening. To allow a spinner like him to take 6 for 40 is unacceptable," Larsen said. "When you come to a deck that might turn a little bit more, you might argue it's going to present even more challenges."
That would be Hamilton, where Faf du Plessis expects a "dustbowl" and although Larsen clarified that New Zealand have not specifically asked for one, it may be what they get. "The history would suggest that this season, in particular, it has turned up there. If you're asking if we've ordered the pitch to turn, no we haven't," he said. "The reality is that that's the way it has been panning out in Hamilton and we've picked our team accordingly, similar to Dunedin where we thought it would be dry."
And so, Piedt has his best chance of making a Test comeback after being discarded following the home series against New Zealand last August. Although Piedt had not done much wrong, the South African selectors felt they needed someone with a little more control and Maharaj provided that. In previous interviews, Piedt admitted to his ability taking a knock but he has nothing but praise for the man who ousted him.
"He's shown that he's in unbelievable form and he's done that in domestic cricket so I can only be happy for him. I spoke to him last night and I told him how impressive it's been to watch him bowl on the international stage. It's never hard feelings. It's about spin bowlers coming through and being able to show their skill to the rest of the world," Piedt said. "His changes of pace and the angles he bowls at are impressive. The shape of his ball is really good as well. If you're bowling consistently in the same sort of area you're always going to be rewarded, like he has. He's quite a patient guy so he does it for long periods of time."
While Maharaj, a left-arm spinner, "doesn't need a lot of tricks" according to Piedt, who cited Rangana Herath and Ravindra Jadeja as examples, Piedt has been working on a few variations that he may bring out if selected. "There's always something I'm trying in the nets. I'm bowling to the old dogs like Andrew Puttick and Dane Vilas, and I'm trying new things all the time," he said.
But will South Africa tinker with a winning combination that Piedt himself believes is "the superior team at the moment"? Perhaps not.
"I had just got onto the plane and I saw JP had taken four wickets, and I told myself even if I don't play at least I'm getting recognised again. I think that's the most important thing," he said. "I've had quite an up-and-down Test career. I made my debut in 2014, had a freak shoulder injury and came back from that. So there's been a lot of frustration and thinking will I ever play for South Africa again. Just to be here again is a privilege."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent