South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 February 26, 2012

de Villiers shows New Zealand the way

While brazen aggression might have intimidated Zimbabwe in the previous series, Brendon McCullum must remember that smarts and mettle are required to topple a side of South Africa's pedigree

For much of South Africa's chase in the first one-dayer in Wellington, their innings mirrored New Zealand's almost exactly. Forced to rebuild following the loss of early wickets, expansive flourishes were shelved, singles were scampered and a stream of seaming deliveries left alone outside off stump. So similar were the innings, that both sides had made the same amount of runs halfway through their overs - 101 - though New Zealand had lost one less wicket.

But what was to follow after the 25-over mark was to prove the winning of the game for South Africa, and a missed opportunity for New Zealand. Unwilling to simply follow recovery with consolidation, Brendon McCullum - the hosts' most experienced batsman - lashed out in counterattack. Launching Lonwabo Tsotsobe over midwicket in the 27th over, he advanced to smack Jacques Kallis over point in the 28th. Morne Morkel got the same treatment in the following over, though this time with less control, before McCullum fell attempting the same stroke three overs in a row. South Africa had become wise to McCullum's ploys and placed the fielder squarer. In a seemingly myopic quest to spur the scoring-rate, McCullum was oblivious to the change.

Three hours later, he couldn't have been given a more fitting nor comprehensive lesson by his counterpart.

Having steadied the early wobble, AB de Villiers continued to collect, even as the asking-rate grew. Keenly aware of the field and employing low-risk strokes - like the downward dab to third man -he'd developed for just such occasions, de Villiers nudged South Africa forward, one quiet over at a time.

JP Duminy followed his captain's lead, his first 34 runs all coming in singles and twos. His fall made way for Faf du Plessis, who lightened his captain's burden with a rapid innings. All through the middle overs, de Villiers was precise and calculating - picking out only the genuinely bad balls to dispatch, and hitting out only when the required-rate threatened to become unmanageable. Where McCullum's eagerness to attack cost his side the luxury of an ideal launching pad, de Villiers' controlled composition of his innings took his side from 35 for 3 in 10 overs, to 254 for 4 after 45.2. If South Africa's innings had come first, a total of over 300 might have been likely.

The blame for New Zealand's sub-par score cannot fall solely on McCullum's shoulders, but having become accustomed to the conditions, he should not have left so much to a middle order missing the experience of Ross Taylor and Jacob Oram. And while brazen aggression might have intimidated Zimbabwe in the previous series, smarts and mettle are required to topple a side of South Africa's pedigree.

Speaking the day after the loss, Kane Williamson, who himself had the opportunity to see the New Zealand innings to the close, spoke of how much the hosts' batsmen could learn from de Villiers' knock.

"It was just so clinical," Williamson said. "He never gave [us] a chance, finished it off and looked at ease doing it, which is what class players do.

"We spoke about it afterwards and realised that players like that, you need to dismiss. But when they put an innings like that together, you need to learn from it as well, personally and as a batting unit."

Even with Taylor in the batting order, New Zealand seemingly lack a batsman who regularly takes responsibility for the innings and completes the overs unbeaten. It is an area New Zealand have struggled in since Stephen Fleming's retirement.

Guptill, Ryder, Taylor and McCullum have the bat speed and bludgeoning power to match any batsman in the world. But unless they develop the ability to maximise that potential by building steadily for extended periods, New Zealand will continue to be, like them, occasionally brilliant, but too inconsistent to be truly formidable.

Edited by Nikita Bastian

Andrew Fernando writes for The Pigeon and has a column here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SCOTT on February 28, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    @sanjai - Verat Kholi is the best ODI batsmen on current form He is destroying much better attacks with amazing shots, one of the best ODI 100s ive ever seen vs sri lanka

  • Nick on February 27, 2012, 11:23 GMT

    Stephen Fleming was exactly like Taylor and McCullum- scores a 50 and then throws away his wicket. The only batsman who ever seemed to try and win us games was Astle, which his 16 ODI hundreds show. NZ batsmen simply don't score enough hundreds in any cricket formats.

  • Andrew on February 27, 2012, 9:33 GMT

    De Villiers has of recent times outperformed most of his team-mates in all conditions. He has often relied on Amla, Kallis and Smith to do the same and also Duminy ... but now with Faf in the side, he has also got someone who can stay with him to win games. De Villers is in the top10 batsmen in One and Five day cricket because he is consistently scoring runs in both forms and statisically has since 2007 an average of 53 in ODIs and 62.17 in Tests. He even outperformed Kallis average-wise in tests by a whisker Kallis has 61.77 in tests and 48.75 in ODIs. Not to bad from a guy in Kallis' shadow. Amla has a higher ODI average 55, but a lower test average of 54.

  • Wayne on February 27, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    AB can do nothing wrong,the choke is on NZ....

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2012, 8:13 GMT

    New Zealand are jaded after a long summer.SA are a hungry lot and some really top stars.Soon or later England,Australia will be in a similar position.THE TALENT POOL NEEDS TO BE REPLENISHED FROM THE DOMESTIC SEASON. I am watching on Sky and the graphics need to be improved and more info required. Why not see the full bowling analysis after the bowler has bowled.The worm after every 10 overs.The toss is never featured during the match. We need a few unbiased commentators everyone seems to have their favourites.

  • sanjai on February 27, 2012, 6:45 GMT

    Kane williamson resembles AB

  • sanjai on February 27, 2012, 6:42 GMT

    AB is d best in d world now..

  • Greg on February 27, 2012, 4:33 GMT

    The first up win against SA was an overflow effect from the Zimbabwe series. NZ are starting to realise who they are playing now. It'll be interesting to see how/if they bounce back.

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2012, 1:54 GMT

    AB is definitely the man for the future. I think with a few more years his name will be mentioned alongside the likes of Sachin and Kallis. Always a treat to watch him. Keep it up AB!

  • Michael on February 27, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    While it's certainly an advantage to have a set batsmen in the closing overs, setting a target and chasing one are two different propositions. With South Africa's imposing batting lineup, McCullum no doubt thought he needed to up the tempo and keep it up so that they would have decent runs to defend. Dabbing the ball around in the middle overs is also precisely why ODIs have been criticised over the last 10 years. I wonder how this article would have been written if Faf du Plessis had been out cheaply and hadn't relieved the scoring rate?

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