Smith doubtful for series decider
Battered and bruised after four consecutive defeats on this tour, New Zealand finally rose to script an emphatic seven-wicket victory in the second one-dayer and breathed some life into the three-match series. The third and final one-dayer at Newlands tomorrow will decide the series and while it's hard to predict a winner, the possible absence of Graeme Smith with a virus may just tilt the balance against South Africa.
New Zealand's win in Port Elizabeth was a comprehensive rout - the bowlers put the stranglehold on the South African top order and kept up the pressure, the fielders backed them up and Jamie How and Brendon McCullum made easy work of the modest target of 210, often making the home side appear complacent.
That apparent complacency was one of the prime reasons for South Africa's collective failure, coach Mickey Arthur said. "We were poor in all three departments, this has been our worst game in a long while," he said after the game. "We were very ordinary and our dressing room is very disappointed. We've rocked up at every game and expected to roll them over. The New Zealand dressing room is more hungry than ours at the moment and that's a concern."
South Africa have the luxury of picking from a host of talented players and it was mystifying why fast bowler Dale Steyn was omitted for both games. Their experimentation with spin hasn't worked, with offspinner Johan Botha picking up just one wicket and failing to have any significant impact. A five-pronged pace attack - Steyn included - could be South Africa's best chance of delivering the killer blow.
Smith's illness could force another change upon the home side. He picked up a virus during the tour of Pakistan and was in discomfort in Port Elizabeth as the virus affected his spleen. Arthur said that opener Morne van Wyk - playing for the Eagles against the Warriors at Bloemfontein - will join the squad as cover for Smith.
New Zealand, for a change have the momentum in their favour. After beating the home side in one of their more favoured venues, the law of averages will probably be the last thing on Vettori's mind in Cape Town, a venue where South Africa know the terrain better than any other team, with 21 wins out of 30.
"The first words out of a lot of the guys' mouths were that we should have won in Durban, so the series should be over now," Vettori said. "But that's not the way it is. Now that we've got the momentum we've got to make sure we hold onto it."
New Zealand have never come close to winning a bilateral series in South Africa, having gone winless in the last two. Tomorrow presents an opportunity to reverse that trend.