Heavyweights return to bolster South Africa
Match FactsFebruary 25, Wellington
Start time 1400 (0100 GMT)
The appetisers have been gobbled up as South Africa won a thrilling Twenty20 series 2-1 and the time for a more substantial course has arrived. The one-day series is only three matches and may struggle for relevance in its current context. With no ICC event looming, the fixtures have no real place except to act as a sequel to the dramatic 2011 World Cup quarterfinal where New Zealand snatched a win from under South Africa.
They might not be on a vengeance mission, as AB de Villiers has often said, but South Africa will no doubt have some points to prove. They already issued a warning during Wednesday's final T20 that their ability to deal with pressure has changed in some respects. For them to be able to continue that into the one-day series will be a marker of progress in the mental aspect of the game more than anything else.
There are also cricketing issues at play for them, particularly in the middle order where JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Albie Morkel and Justin Ontong will all want to show themselves worthy of regular selection. The three matches will also present an opportunity for South Africa to try different bowling combinations and see how best to make use of the many spinners, specialist and part-time, at their disposal.
New Zealand will also look to this series as a part of a building process. They have some new players in their ranks, specifically in the bowling department. Michael Bates, Andrew Ellis and Tarun Nethula will want to find their place against top-ranked opposition, after making their debuts against Zimbabwe. The batting line-up will also want to test themselves against a more challenging attack after showing their ability and improving on it in every match against Zimbabwe.
Form Guide(most recent first)
New Zealand WWWLW
South Africa LLWWW
Players to watch …
Tim Southee and Kyle Mills have led the war of words both on this tour and in the World Cup quarterfinal, a match which New Zealand will look to draw inspiration from. South Africa have shut them both up with their performances and it will be interesting to see what tactic the pair employ now. Will they keep peppering the batsmen with harsh words or will they let the ball do the talking?
With Richard Levi breathing down his neck, Graeme Smith faces a similar pressure to the one he wrestled with last month, in the ODI series against Sri Lanka. Then, he silenced his critics with a brutal half-century in Kimberley and a forceful three-figure knock in Johannesburg. Smith's ODI form has been a talking point since he stepped down as captain in the format and he will want to prove he still has a lot to give to the fifty-over version of the game.
New Zealand's top five looks formidable with Martin Guptill and Rob Nicol opening, Brendon McCullum at No. 3 and Jesse Ryder slotting in at 5. James Franklin dislocated a joint in the little finger of his right hand at training on Friday but X-rays cleared him of a fracture. He should be fit to play but if the discomfort proves too much, Tom Latham will stand in for him. Kyle Mills missed the deciding T20 with illness and should be back in place of Michael Bates. The other position being contested will be between legspinner Tarun Nethula and one of the other seamers, Andy McKay or Andrew Ellis.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Rob Nicol, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt & wk), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Jesse Ryder, 6 James Franklin/Tom Latham 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Doug Bracewell 9 Tim Southee, 10 Tarun Nethula/Andy McKay, 11 Kyle Mills/Michael Bates
South Africa welcome back big guns who will add experience to their XI. Graeme Smith will open the batting with Hashim Amla while Jacques Kallis returns at No. 3. The positions 4-6 in the line-up are known to be rotational but will be occupied by AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and either Faf du Plessis or Justin Ontong. If both are included, Albie Morkel may have to sit out. Its unlikely South Africa will play more than one spinner and that position will be jostled by the man in possession Robin Peterson and the wily Johan Botha. Dale Steyn will be back to bolster the bowling.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Graeme Smith, 3 Jacques Kallis 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 and 7 Justin Ontong/Faf du Plessis/ Albie Morkel, 8 Robin Peterson/Johan Botha 9 Dale Steyn 10 Morne Morkel 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Stats and Trivia
- The last time South Africa played an ODI series in New Zealand, they were beaten 5-1, in the 2003-4 season.
- Jacques Kallis has stuck 900 fours in his ODI career.
- Kyle Mills is three wickets away from 200 ODI scalps.
"There's definitely belief that we can beat them. We are playing in our conditions, we've got what we think is a pretty exciting unit as well."
Brendon McCullum says New Zealand are not short of confidence after the T20 series loss
"The guys have given us a start. It's a tough tour because conditions are different. It's a different way of playing cricket but I am looking forward to it." South African stalwart Jacques Kallis hopes the experienced players in the one-day set-up can continue the momentum from the T20 series
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent