Strong South Africa to test New Zealand's T20 form
February 17, 2017
Start time 7.00pm local (0600GMT)
The Big Picture
New Zealand have dispatched Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia at home this season but the visit of South Africa is the meat of their summer. We should know a fair amount more about Kane Williamson's New Zealand by the end of March.
Whether the tour actually gets going on Friday night is another issue. Rain lashed Auckland on the final practice day - it has already disrupted South Africa's first few days here with the warm-up match washed - and it currently appears touch-and-go if it will clear in time for a full match.
One-off T20s are pretty meaningless in the grander scheme of things, especially so far away from the next World T20, and Faf du Plessis said pretty much that at his arrival press conference. However, cricket should be about the spectators as well as the players and, if the weather plays ball and the crowd swells into the ground, it should be a lively Friday evening.
The only part of South Africa's home season that did not go to plan was the T20 series against Sri Lanka when a second-string side were overturned 2-1. This time the side will closely resemble the powerhouse one-day unit; whether that translates into the performance remains to be seen.
For New Zealand in T20 there is a sense of getting a glimpse at the future. Tom Bruce came in against Bangladesh, left-armer Ben Wheeler returned and Tom Blundell also featured. Blundell has made way for the fit-again Luke Ronchi, but 20-year Glenn Phillips has been rewarded for his stellar Super Smash tournament.
(completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WWWLW
In the spotlight
Colin Munro has lost his place in the ODI squad after two failures at the hands of Australia, but two international innings previously he had notched his maiden hundred with 101 off 57 balls in the second T20 against Bangladesh. That century came in the middle of two ducks in the same series, then a brief trip to the BBL was not hugely successful before his twin failures against Australia. His last outing in domestic cricket was at least a half-century, but he remains a hit or miss player.
Quinton de Kock was one of a host of first-choice players given the Sri Lanka T20 series off and how he was missed at the top of the order. Although one half-century in 29 innings may seem a little underwhelming for someone who has played all but three of those as an opener (he has, though, passed 25 in 17 of those innings) he can light the powderkeg for an innings as was witnessed at the World T20 against England when he scored that lone fifty.
The 20-year-old Phillips will open in the absence of Martin Guptill, while Kane Williamson indicated that Nos. 3 to 5 in the order would remain the same as the Bangladesh series. That could mean a decision between Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme although much will depend on if the game is reduced due to rain.
New Zealand (possible) 1 Kane Williamson (capt), 2 Glenn Phillips, 3 Colin Munro, 4 Tom Bruce, 5 Corey Anderson, 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Ben Wheeler, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult
South Africa will make a late decision over the fitness of David Miller after the finger injury he picked up against Sri Lanka. If he is fit to play it would likely mean Farhaan Behardien, who captained South Africa in their previous series, missing out.
South Africa (possible) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller/Farhaan Behardien, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Wayne Parnell, 9 Andile Phehlukwayo, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
Eden Park equals endless mentions of short boundaries. Yes, they are still short straight. It doesn't mean batsmen always take advantage, though. While the weather forecast is poor there is the potential for it to clear up during the afternoon and the ground does have top-quality drainage. The pitch is unlikely to suffer although if there is play under cloudy skies the ball could swing, while a damp ball would be hard for the spinners.
Stats and trivia
- These two teams have played 14 T20Is against each other: South Africa lead 10-4
- Despite the often-referenced short boundaries, the average score batting first in T20Is at Eden Park is a fairly modest 166. The highest total, made twice, is 214 by Australia (in the first ever T20) and England in 2013.
- Phillips will play for New Zealand before he has played a first-class game for Auckland.
"I've been working really hard. It's not easy to go in every series and try to perform but as long as I'm doing well for the team, as long as the captain and boys are happy, then I'm happy."
Imran Tahir on his recent success
"We want to hit the ground running tomorrow night. It's a shame about the build-up and the weather, but we've been in camp for a while and every team has been playing a huge amount of cricket so nice to come off a little break."
Kane Williamson was not to worried about the soggy few days in Auckland
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo