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November 24, 2007
In their first ODI since the World Cup semi-final in April they are going to have to find some backbone to test South Africa, who recently registered a 3-2 series win in Pakistan. Despite pushing South Africa until the penultimate ball in Johannesburg - a significant improvement from the two hopeless drubbings in the Tests - for a large part of the match New Zealand were still a distant second best. The batting once again struggled to hold its own even though the home side rested Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel.
It would help New Zealand's cause to have the services of Jacob Oram, who missed the second Test and Twenty20 with a hamstring problem. His presence in the middle order would increase the scoring potential and offer Daniel Vettori an important option with the ball. Sources from inside New Zealand's camp said Oram was still not fully fit and may not be ready.
Chris Martin, however, is expected to return after a stomach virus - his energy is returning - and along with Kyle Mills, who made a useful start in the Twenty20, the bowling stocks aren't shaping up too badly.
Jeetan Patel's impressive spell on Friday will make it tempting for New Zealand to play two spinners even though Kingsmead often favours the quick bowlers. But the match is a day game so conditions should remain similar throughout with neither side having to contend with batting under the floodlights.
If Ntini and Nel return for South Africa it will be a challenge fitting in all the in-form bowlers. Shaun Pollock showed he can still bring plenty to the side with three wickets in the Twenty20 while Dale Steyn is due a one-day run and Albie Morkel is a useful all-round option. However, Mickey Arthur would rest a little easier if the top-order batting showed more consistency and captain Graeme Smith's form improved.
However, for Smith the match is a notable landmark as he reaches 100 matches as South Africa captain, with 56 victories during his tenure. "It is something I am very proud of when I look back at it," he said. "I guess when most guys get to these landmarks, they say that they have withstood the test of time but I am only 26 and I am very proud of what I have achieved.
"When you look at that number of games, you realise how inexperienced I was as a player when I took over as captain. When I think of the responsibility I had to take on, the way I have developed and where I have got to, I am very happy with what I have achieved."
But he won't be dwelling on the landmark for too long as he aims to continue South Africa's impressive season with another piece of silverware before the second half of their summer begins and the visit of West Indies.
South Africa (from) Graeme Smith (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Morne van Wyk, Mark Boucher (wk), Shaun Pollock, Albie Morkel, Vernon Philander, Johan Botha, Charl Langeveldt, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Andre Nel
New Zealand (from) Lou Vincent, Brendon McCullum (wk), Jamie How, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Mathew Sinclair, Jacob Oram, Gareth Hopkins, Daniel Vettori (capt), Kyle Mills, Mark Gillespie, Jeetan Patel, Michael Mason
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.