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The Preview by Firdose Moonda
December 20, 2012
Match factsDecember 21, 2012
Big PictureThe aim of this Twenty20 series was to provide a different festive spirit, if Cricket South Africa (CSA) are to be believed. They doused the flames of the furore they caused when they cancelled the traditional Boxing Day Test and promised that three T20s in a week would provide more entertainment given the opposition. (Don't tell anyone but they were also hoping for more money, which is unlikely now that the national broadcaster has made CSA settle for a significantly smaller fee).
If ever there was an insult against New Zealand, this was it. South Africa apparently do not consider them worthy enough of a Test series in the Christmas week, although they have given them the privilege of a New Year's match.
A full-strength New Zealand could have objected to that notion, challenging like they did in March: then, they took South Africa down to the last over in the T20 series before Marchant de Lange won it for the visitors. Without their heavyweights, though, whether New Zealand will be able to repeat or better that showing is questionable. Missing in action are Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder, and New Zealand have five uncapped players in their squad; Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson say they are looking forward to blooding new talent.
They can take comfort in the knowledge that South Africa are in a similar position. Four rookies have been included in the 15-man squad and even the rest are not overly experienced. Of the group, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel have played the most number of T20s for the country but both will be rested during the series.
Stand-in captain Faf du Plessis has only just established himself as a regular member of the playing XI while none of the top-order, middle-order or bowling combinations are settled. This is all to New Zealand's advantage and they will want to shock South Africa as the hosts look to build for the future.
Form guideSouth Africa LLLWW (Completed games, most recent first)
In the spotlightThe much-hyped, recently turned 20-year-old Quinton de Kock will get the opportunity to live up to expectation. De Kock played for South Africa at the Under-19 World Cup this year and has been touted as the long-term wicketkeeping option. He has been inconsistent for Lions but flashes of brilliance have seen him get the nod. In the recently completed domestic one-day cup, de Kock scored one century but none of his other innings yielded more than 41 runs. His talent is not in doubt though.
With New Zealand hoping for their young players to step up, they may have forgotten about the importance of the senior men's contributions. Brendon McCullum will carry the heaviest burden as he looks to unite a seemingly fractured unit, move them past the Ross Taylor episode and ensure they compete against tough opposition. On top of that, he will also have to hold the batting line-up together and will be expected to be his usual explosive self at the crease.
Team newsSouth Africa could play all four of their new faces in the first match of the series. Quinton de Kock has been confirmed as the wicketkeeper in AB de Villiers' absence. Henry Davids is certain to open the batting with Richard Levi. Although Faf du Plessis would like to bat up the order, his experience will be needed in the middle. Chris Morris will contend for the allrounder's spot with Ryan McLaren while the bowling attack will comprise of two spinners, with left-armer Aaron Phangiso likely to debut, and Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt vying for a place. Dale Steyn will feature in the first match but may be rested thereafter.
South Africa: (likely) 1 Richard Levi, 2 Henry Davids, 3 Quinton de Kock, 4 Faf du Plessis, 5 Farhaan Behardien, 6 David Miller, 7 Chris Morris/Ryan McLaren, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Aaron Phangiso, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe/Rory Kleinveldt
New Zealand have indicated they will not field a similar XI to that which played in the practice match because they will have their experienced players coming in. Martin Guptill is likely to open the batting with Rob Nicol. The main competition for places is among the bowlers: Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell will contend with Michael Bates, Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell McClenaghan for spots. Colin Munro, who top-scored in the practice match, is likely to debut along with Corey Anderson and McClenaghan.
New Zealand: (likely) 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Peter Fulton/Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum, 4 James Franklin, 5 Colin Munro, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Jimmy Neesham/Trent Boult, 9 Michael Bates/Doug Bracewell, 10 Mitchell McClenaghan, 11 Ronnie Hira
Stats and Trivia
Quotes"I think the pitch might have changed in nature. Maybe it is not as quick and bouncy as we are used to, maybe it's a little bit slower and the spinners seem to play more of a role. It has also been quite hot, so maybe it will be a little bit drier as well."
"The psychological advantage is not really there in this format so whoever plays the best cricket is going to win. It's the perfect opportunity to put a young player under pressure and see how they stand up against a Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel."
Shane Bond, New Zealand's bowling coach, believes the shortest format will level the playing field
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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