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The Preview by Devashish Fuloria
December 25, 2012
Match factsDecember 26, 2012
Big PictureThe traditional Boxing Day Test has been replaced by a Twenty20 and although it may not match up to the drama or the prestige of a serious contest in whites, it is a decider. For the young South African side being led by Faf du Plessis, a win would reiterate the quality of the No. 1 Test side's bench strength. But New Zealand need this one more after all the pre-series controversy regarding the captaincy and the main course of the tour - the two Tests - just a week away.
The importance of the coming challenges was not lost on Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, who said after the win in East London that the game was not a "one-off" and that the team needed to keep similar tempo through the tour. There were other bright signs apart from Martin Guptill's match-winning hundred. Rob Nicol and McCullum played responsible supporting roles to Guptill, Nathan McCullum was economical, and Doug Bracewell picked up wickets despite being expensive. These are the players the team will rely on through much of the tour and from New Zealand's perspective, it is critical they take the confidence of a win in the T20 series forward.
With no Boxing Day Test, the South African fans would have to contend with a four-day void after the match and would hope for a small Christmas present from their team. South Africa have had more balanced performances in the two matches so far, with du Plessis leading from the front, and still are favourites to wrap up the series.
Form guide (Completed games, most recent first)South Africa LWLLL
In the spotlightComing back from sickness, Martin Guptill produced an innings of such significance in the previous match that it lifted spirits like only a last-ball win can. He took his time to get settled and then selectively took the bowlers apart, being especially severe on Aaron Phangiso, the debutant spinner, whom he countered with his brutal sweeps. Can he jingle all the way?
David Miller has played 10 T20s for South Africa in the last two years and has largely been kept out by a settled batting line-up. But South Africa have one eye on the future and T20s are a chance for him to impress. He certainly did in the 18 balls that he played in the last match as he effortlessly cleared the infield a few times with his timing.
Team newsSouth Africa have only 12 players at their disposal and with Richard Levi struggling for form, it could be a toss up between him and Justin Ontong.
South Africa: (likely) 1 Richard Levi/ Justin Ontong, 2 Henry Davids, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 Quinton de Kock (wk), 5 Farhaan Behardien, 6 David Miller, 7 Robin Peterson, 8 Ryan McLaren, 9 Aaron Phangiso, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Rory Kleinveldt
New Zealand reaped the benefit of experience with the addition of Guptill in the last match. Trent Boult, the left-arm seamer, who sat out the first two matches due to sickness could make a return.
New Zealand: (likely) 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt & wk), 4 James Franklin, 5 Colin Munro, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Nathan McCullum, 8 Jimmy Neesham, 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Ronnie Hira, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan/Trent Boult
Stats and Trivia
"It's going to take one person or a couple of people to take the game away from the other team and hopefully that's going to be us again. It was the same situation last summer back home. It was one-all leading into the third match, so it will make for a great finale."
New Zealand opening batsman Martin Guptill
"David [Miller] came in and hit the ball sweetly to all parts of the field. It's great to have him back, he is a young talent and he brings a lot to the team. It was a fantastic innings, to come in at that stage when conditions made it difficult to come in and start scoring was great, I certainly struggled when I came in."
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis on David Miller's 33 off 18 balls
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Devashish Fuloria
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Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough