First the good news: New Zealand have never beaten South Africa at Kingsmead.
Does that augur well for the first Test starting on Thursday? As always, the Devil is in the detail: Since the dawn of Test cricket, South Africa have played New Zealand only three times in Durban; the last being in 1994.
Given such flimsy evidence, it is hard to pick up a trend: South Africa were run mighty close in a low-scoring match in 1961, and it took six of the best by Peter Pollock when the Kiwis faced a target of 190 to win. They fell 30 runs short.
In the first meeting, in December ’53, it was much more of a stroll to a win by an innings and 58. It was a victory set up by spinners; Hugh Tayfield taking 6-62 with his off-spin, complemented by 3-69 from the leg-breaks of Clive van Ryneveld. The seamers only stepped up in New Zealand’s follow-on innings, but Tayfield still picked up three.
In more memorable times, it was all pace that brought about an eight-wicket win in 1994. Fanie de Villiers ended with eight wickets in the match, and Brian McMillan six.
That was it for Durban. In the subsequent four tours here, Durban has been ignored, but then again, they have been short tours of never more than three. The last two have been two-Test affairs.
Since readmission, the Proteas have won nine of 22 matches, and lost seven at Kingsmead. The Proteas will want to forget the last one, against England last December.
The Proteas thought they were well in it when Steyn and Morkel took four apiece to bowl England out for 303. But thereafter they were never up with the pace, bowled out for 214, with 167 of those coming from Dean Elgar (118) and AB de Villiers (49). They scraped together just 174 when chasing a target of 416.
A word of caution: On day one, it is expected to be cloudy. On Saturday, it will be even more cloudier. That could be good for swing bowling, something that the left-armer Trent Boult will relish.
The batsmen will need to dig in.