South Africa v New Zealand, 3rd Twenty20, Port Elizabeth December 25, 2012

Teams seek winning punch on Boxing Day


Match facts

December 26, 2012
Start time 1430 (1230 GMT)

Big Picture

The traditional Boxing Day Test has been replaced by a Twenty20 and although it may not match up to the drama or the prestige of a serious contest in whites, it is a decider.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
New Zealand WLTLT

In the spotlight

Coming 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 news

South 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

  • Martin Guptill's hundred in the last match was only the second in the second innings of a T20 international. The first one was scored by Richard Levi earlier this year.
  • Levi scored a sensational 117 in only his second T20 international innings. Since then, he has scored 106 runs in 11 innings with eight single-digit scores.
  • The head-to-head record between the teams is 7-3 in favour of South Africa


"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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2012, 12:26 GMT

    @jb633 - I'm not sure that Levi is considered class in the same league as the others mentioned, take his century out of his figures and his average is pretty poor. All the bowlers have worked him out, and as a Somerset fan I'm hoping he's unavailable this year.......

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    @David... It may be my humble opinion, but the attendances & TV ratings (especially when Australia aren't performing well on field) ensure the MCG Boxing day test remains an important date on the international cricket calendar. Are there any other traditional fixtures that exist in world cricket? MCG 26 Dec and SCG (& Newlands apparently) New Year tests are the only two I know of. It's one of the few true traditions than remains in world cricket today, and that is a credit to Cricket Australia for making it so (or being 'inflexible').

    @quit... I have no problem with South Africa wanting to play at home in Dec-Jan, but wanted to point out what they were missing out on by not playing at the MCG as they have in the past and could have again in 2012. And Tests remain far more important than T20s, so I queried why a Boxing Day test could not have been played vs NZ rather than meaningless T20s. I've nothing more to add, so I will continue to enjoy the MCG test, and you enjoy your cricket

  • Ivan on December 26, 2012, 11:29 GMT

    @ Peter Apostolopoulis.

    Yes, and Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Please don't quote history to me. The point is that while compromises are made when itineraries are decided upon, it is Australia who are completely inflexible on the Boxing Day and New Year issues. While SA may often have agreed to fit in with (any) host's plans on away tours, we also have the right to decide, reasonably, how our home Tests are scheduled. Who are you to decide that the "biggest mistake" was to schedule a T20 rather than a Test match on Boxing Day. Let me explain something to you; New Year is a "big deal" in the Cape and encompasses all types of festivities among the "coloured" population, to the extent that in the Cape Jan 2 as well as Jan 1 are Public Holidays. Not so elsewhere. That is why a New Years Test in Cape Town will always have priority over a Boxing Day Test in, say, Johannesburg. Anyway, play to your own rules and enjoy the Test against SL.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2012, 11:21 GMT

    WHO said that a (or 'the') Test at the MCG is the 'Premier date on the international cricket calendar'? Or is that just in YOUR humble opinion?. World cricket does NOT revolve around Australia. Australia is just one of a number of major cricket playing nations. In the recent third test at Perth, Australia suffered one of the heaviest test defeats in history at the hands of South Africa, and Australia lost the home series. In ICC rankings SA is 1st; England 2nd and Australia only 3rd. In test batting SA he 3 in the top 10. Aust only 2. In bowling, SA has 3, Aust 2. In ODI batting, SA has 2; Aust has 2. In ODI bowling, SA has 3 and Aust has none. In 20/20 rankings, S.A. is 6th, while Aust is 7th. And so, you can see Australia is NOT the centre of the cricket universe. Any game played at the MCG is just anither game, being played by an ordinary nation (at the moment). And don't let me get started on the GREATEST cricketer the world has ever seen.... Jacques KALLIS. Just check the stats.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2012, 10:51 GMT

    @quitthewhinging. It's quite simple. Ever since their reintroduction to international cricket, South Africa have toured Australia in Dec-Jan and played Boxing Day and New Years tests in Melbourne and Sydney respectively. The same proposition was in place for South Africa's 2012-13 tour to Australia, but South Africa declined as they wanted Australia to tour South Africa in return during Dec-Jan. There was no way Australia would, or ever will, give up their two biggest home Tests of their summer, so the compromise was made to have South Africa tour in Nov-Dec so South Africa could return home and host matches in Dec-Jan. This all occurred far before SL and NZ were scheduled in their current times to tour Aus and SAf respectively. The biggest mistake is that South Africa scheduled a T20 rather than Test match on Boxing day.

  • Sherjil on December 26, 2012, 10:36 GMT

    SA have to choose between Ontong/Levi.......You got to be kidding me!!!!

  • Ivan on December 26, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    @ Peter Apostopoulos. The CSA may be fools but not for the reason you mention. You should take your blinkers off. The cricket world doesn't revolve around the MCG in Melbourne. The cricket itinerary for the NZ tour to SA must have been agreed long before any invitation may have been made by CA to SA to play at the MCG . If you check you will see that the first Test against NZ is due to start on Jan 2, so how do really think it was feasible for SA to play from Dec 26 to Dec 30 in Melbourne? Also, don't you think that to ask SA when SL are already in the country, would be highly insulting to SL? And NZ would also be rightly insulted if SA agreed to some jaunt while they were guests in SA? To satisfy my ignorance, could you please direct me to some reference to any invitation by CA to SA to play in Melbourne on Boxing Day; I must have missed it.

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2012, 8:29 GMT

    Just returned from day 1 of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. 67000 attendance. Can't believe South African cricket board passed on this opportunity to play in Melbourne for a meaningless T20 match. Fools. The MCG Boxing Day Test is the premier date on the international cricket calendar.

  • Ivan on December 26, 2012, 7:22 GMT

    I don't recall that it it was a tradition to play a Test in SA on Boxing Day. It was however a tradition for a touring side to play a Test at Newlands in Cape Town over New Year, and that is what is happening with this NZ side.

    I don't know the background to the OZ/Melbourne/Boxing Day situation, but surely the Australians couldn't have asked SA to play on Boxing Day when they already have a touring side (SL) in the country. It doesn't make sense. In any case, in general, Australia can't have their cake and eat it. If they want SA or anyone else for that matter to play in Melbourne on Boxing Day to please the Australian public and fill the coffers of an already rich administration, surely there should be some reciprocation. Apparently they think their attitude is fair. I don't.

  • Ivan on December 26, 2012, 6:46 GMT

    This whole new "strategy" or whatever by CSA is a shambles. OK, they name a new T20 squad but then when it is depleted by injuries etc, they name no replacements?? Now they have left 12 fit players. How can you possibly field a balanced side? Then take into account 1) that Levi should be benched & thereafter banished, and 2) the 12th player is Justin Ontong, who has been a perennial failure over 10 years. Check his stats, they are pathetic and he isn't some young player, he is over 30 for pete's sake. And, Faf du Plessis. His captaincy is hopeless and he carries on at press conferences about a young squad and "energy". Is it really so young? And what is this business of "energy"?? Some new buzzword? Like I said, it's a shambles. I hope NZ win by 10 wickets.

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