Opinion: Blackcaps v South Africa player ratings, first test at Christchurch

OPINION: The Blackcaps have sealed some impressive test victories in recent memory, and victory by an innings and 276 runs over South Africa at Christchurch is right up there with the best of them.

Seeking a maiden series win over the Proteas, the NZ win inside three days has given Tom Latham's side a 1-0 lead that cannot be passed, with the chance to create history from next Friday.

Here's how the Blackcaps rated in their triumph.

Tom Latham 5

While Latham couldn't replicate the feats of his last test innings at Hagley (252 against Bangladesh), the stand-in skipper blunted South Africa's new-ball attack for 61 balls in the New Zealand innings.

Tom Latham.
Tom Latham. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Yes, the 15 runs he scored won't feature among Latham's best knocks, but the captain set the platform for what was to come on day two, as the Blackcaps middle and lower order cashed in.

Excellent rotation of the quicks as captain, but Latham loses points for not bringing Matt Henry back into the attack on day three in search of his 10th wicket.

Kudos for finally winning a toss as test captain though.

Will Young 3.5

Will Young walks off after being dismissed.
Will Young walks off after being dismissed. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Hardly a test to remember for Young. Played one of the best shots of the match when he pulled Kagiso Rabada for four late on day one, but only scored eight runs in New Zealand's only innings.

Still plenty to come from the elegant opener.

Devon Conway 8

Devon Conway pulls.
Devon Conway pulls. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

A total of 36 runs isn't normally anything to rave about for a player of Conway's class, but considering they all came on day one, when the pitch was at its best for the bowlers, Conway's contribution needs to be put into the right context. 

The lefthander's importance as an all-format player for the Blackcaps grows more and more evident with each match.

Henry Nicholls 9.5

Henry Nicholls celebrates his century.
Henry Nicholls celebrates his century. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Stepping up in the absence of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor - the first time NZ has played a test without one of them since 2008 - Nicholls did exactly what was needed of him as the side's senior batter.

His 105 runs can sit on the podium among his best innings as a Blackcap, coming against a world-class seam attack on a green pitch at the end of day one, before cashing in on day two.

The only gripe against Nicholls' contribution comes for committing the cardinal sin of a test batter - giving his wicket away right after passing 100.

Daryl Mitchell 4.5

Daryl Mitchell pulls.
Daryl Mitchell pulls. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Only added 16 runs with the bat and wasn't required to bowl, but Mitchell genuinely impressed during his first test occupying Taylor's place at first slip.

We probably take for granted the impact of a good slips cordon, because Taylor made it look so easy for so long, but Mitchell didn't look out of place at all.

He must still prove he deserves a regular spot in the Blackcaps first XI.

Tom Blundell 9

Tom Blundell reaches 50.
Tom Blundell reaches 50. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Excellent with the bat, excellent with the gloves (taking six catches behind the stumps), Blundell fell short of his third test ton, but played the ideal role of a lower-order batter on day two.

Thanks largely to partnerships with the freescoring Colin de Grandhomme and Matt Henry, Blundell seemed to move past 50 without any hassle and was instrumental in securing a lead of 387 runs.

After a difficult tour of India last year, Blundell has started 2022 in fine fettle, with half centuries in his last two innings.

There were worries he'd fallen into the trap of trying to be the next BJ Watling, but now looks comfortable as the first Tom Blundell.

Colin de Grandhomme 7

Colin de Grandhomme.
Colin de Grandhomme. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

In a timely return to test cricket, de Grandhomme gave a reminder of how much he can change a game with bat in hand.

A 42-ball 45 gave the Blackcaps the impetus on day two and completely knocked the wind out of South Africa after lunch. 

Disappointing to see him give it away trying to reach his half-century with a six, but that's the risk you take with a player like de Grandhomme.

Only bowled two overs across both innings, but wasn't exactly needed either.

Kyle Jamieson 5

Kyle Jamieson is congratulated.
Kyle Jamieson is congratulated. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Jamieson only took two wickets across both innings, but played a valuable support role with the ball.

Still learning at the highest level and won't have it all his way, like he did to start his career.

A disappointing showing with the bat, Jamieson looked great for 15 runs, before throwing it away.

Could be the man to make way for Trent Boult in the second test, if the Blackcaps feel the need to make a change.

Tim Southee 8.5

Tim Southee celebrates a wicket.
Tim Southee celebrates a wicket. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

With six wickets across both innings, Southee ripped the heart out of South Africa, as they attempted to save the test on days two and three.

Another five-wicket haul - his 14th in tests - put Southee past Sir Richard Hadlee's haul of 201 home-test wickets, the most by a Kiwi.

A genuine great of New Zealand cricket.

Neil Wagner 9.5

Neil Wagner bats.
Neil Wagner bats. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

All the plaudits will go to Nicholls and Henry, but this was also an excellent test match for Wagner.

With match figures of 3/40 with the ball and a swashbuckling 49 with the bat as nightwatchman, Wagner stood up against the nation of his birth.

What's more, his performance with the ball deserves a special mention, as he looked to swing the ball, rather than just bounce out any batter unlucky enough to be on strike.

Matt Henry 10

Matt Henry celebrates his seven-wicket haul.
Matt Henry celebrates his seven-wicket haul. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Whoever writes Henry's scripts is doing a bloody good job.

Making the most of a rare test opportunity, due to Trent Boult's paternity leave absence, Henry took his chances with both hands.

First-innings figures of 7/23 ruined South Africa's chances of avoiding defeat and went a long way towards New Zealand's victory, as the Blackcaps took the lead before the end of day one.

Then, batting at No.11, Henry combined with Blundell to score 94 runs for the 10th wicket - the highest partnership of the match - as he scored his second test half-century.

His performances with bat and ball gave Henry his second man-of-the-match award in as many tests, after starring against England at Birmingham last year.

But like Ajaz Patel at Mumbai, Henry's performance may not be enough for selection to the second test, with Boult expected to return on Friday.

You'd like to think Henry will be, at least, given the chance to play a part in New Zealand's quest for that elusive first series win over the Proteas.

Alex Powell is a Newshub digital sports producer