Oram boost for New Zealand in must-win game
South Africa will look to continue their successful run against New Zealand with a win in the second ODI in Port Elizabeth. The hosts almost faltered during their run-chase in the first ODI in Durban but a win on Friday will give them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Going by current form, South Africa are clear favourites and this is even without considering their record in day-night encounters at St. George's Park - eights win out of ten ODIs, with one no result.
The hosts will be boosted by the return of Herschelle Gibbs, who had missed the Twenty20 international and the first ODI with a knee injury. Gibbs' standby Morne van Wyk has been released from the squad to play for the Eagles in the SuperSport series.
The other dilemma facing the South African selectors surrounds their pace attack. New Zealand's batsmen were blown away by Dale Steyn during the two-Test series, and his inclusion in the playing XI could dent the tourists' confidence ahead of a must-win game.
However, with Shaun Pollock conceding next to nothing in his ten overs
and Andre Nel playing a pivotal role with both ball and bat in the first
ODI, the axe could fall on Makhaya Ntini, who proved to be expensive,
especially at the death in Durban. Johan Botha might play despite unimpressive
Graeme Smith, the South African captain, hinted at possible changes in the bowling line-up. "We've got to look at the wicket and the conditions, but obviously Dale [Steyn] and [Charl] Langeveldt come into the equation," he was quoted as saying on the website SuperCricket. "We'll see what switches we need to make to suit the conditions."
Smith's opposition counterpart Daniel Vettori must be wondering what his team needs to do to beat this South African side. New Zealand's main worry through the Tests was the form of their batsmen, but after the Durban ODI, the team would be concerned over its bowling options as well, besides their poor catching, which Vettori highlighted as the main reason for the last-ball loss at Kingsmead.
Kyle Mills' 5 for 25 in Durban would have done Shane Bond proud but New Zealand could have done with some firepower at the other end - Mark Gillespie, Chris Martin, Scott Styris and Vettori conceded 220 runs and picked up three wickets.
Allrounder Jacob Oram will be a handy addition to the bowling department. Oram suffered a hamstring strain in the first Test, and Vettori indicated the team would play six bowlers.
"Jacob's probably the most important member of our team purely from the roles he fills, batting at number six and able to bowl 10 overs," Vettori told SuperCricket. "It's a luxury not many teams have and having him back means I can take six bowlers and we get a nice balance when he's playing."
That means wicketkeeper-batsman Gareth Hopkins, who scored a first-ball duck at Kingsmead, is likely to be dropped. The New Zealand captain also indicated Jeetan Patel, the offspinner, could get the nod ahead of one of the quicker bowlers. "The times I've played here, I've always found it a low, slow wicket and the guys who've been able to take the pace off it have always succeeded here [in Port Elizabeth]," he said. "So seamers still have an important role to play, but we'll have a lot of emphasis on the slow bowlers."
Vettori admitted his team would be under pressure to win the remaining two matches. "We need to win both matches to give ourselves a shot at the series," he said. "The way we play tomorrow will be with that in mind, and we definitely will not be playing defensively.
"We'll be chasing that win as hard as we can, but the key thing is that when you are chasing a win, you maybe push a little too hard and forget about a few of the simple things you need to do."
However, Smith said he expected South Africa to up their game, and seal the series. "We want to be more clinical come tomorrow. It would be fantastic to close off the series tomorrow," he said. "The guys get a nice break after this weekend, so hopefully we can step it up and play some really good cricket."