Mismatch looms in low-key series
January 19, 2013
Boland Park Paarl
Start time 1000 (0800 GMT)
You can tell a lot about a place by simply browsing through its newspapers. A quick glance at the local media in South Africa will reveal that three-match ODI series against New Zealand is almost not happening.
The back page has been taken over by football's African Nations' Cup which is being hosted in South Africa and begins on the same day as the first ODI. The inside pages are a mixture of Super Rugby previews, Australian Open action and look ahead to the Test series against Pakistan. Only a few lines have been set aside for the New Zealand contest and most will say, deservedly so given the mis-match of the Test series.
New Zealand's media is also not taking the series too seriously. The two newspaper journalists and one radio reporter who covered the Tests have left South African shores. their parting words were that they would return home to concentrate on the upcoming England series and would only keep this contest in the very periphery of their vision.
Even if it is of little interest, the series will be of some use to both participating sides. For New Zealand, it is an opportunity to claw back some respect after they were humiliated in the Tests. They are still without some of their key players but at least look a more capable unit in this format than the longer ones. Specialists such as Kyle Mills, Rob Nicol and Grant Elliott have been brought in to bolster their ranks and New Zealand will hope to compete and maybe even spring a surprise or two.
South Africa will see this as phase 1 in the long-term preparations for the 2015 World Cup. Although two years away, South Africa's 2013 schedule means they can focus this period on fifty-over cricket. They played 13 ODIs in 2012 and could play as many as ten more this year, depending on how far they go in the Champions Trophy. Winning that competition will go a long way to ensure the chokers label starts peeling off and coming with ways to win that start in this series.
Form guide(most recent first, completed matches only)
South Africa: WLLWW
New Zealand: LLLLL
In the spotlight
It's tough to keep a proper eye on a coach but Gary Kirsten's strategies will be under the microscope as he looks to create an ODI unit that win ICC silverware. Kirsten has earmarked 2013 as an important period for ODI development in a similar way to how 2012 was identified as the time for the Test team to shine. The success in the longest format has come through consistency and a solid team culture which Kirsten said will take longer to embed in the limited-overs side. His first task is to find the right combinations, then to ensure the continually indecisive AB de Villiers is comfortable in his role as captain and lastly, to get the tactics right. In between that and managing workload ahead of the Pakistan series, Kirsten has his plate overflowing for the next week.
After an inept show with the bat in the Tests, Martin Guptill returns to the white-ball game with a point to prove. He has already had success in the Twenty20 series where his unbeaten century singlehandedly levelled the series for New Zealand and his capability in the shorter forms is much lauded. His tendency in Tests to hang his bat out to dry gets shelved in limited-overs where he plays with freedom and finesse. Good performances in the three ODIs won't stop the questions about his ability against the red ball but it may buy him some time.
A new wicketkeeper in Quinton de Kock means that de Villiers will be free from the glovework in this series. De Kock batted at No. 3 in the Twenty20s but came in lower in this format, although South Africa's batting line-up will remain flexible. Colin Ingram could find himself back in the starting XI with Farhaan Behardien likely to make his ODI debut and both will compete with Ryan McLaren, depending on whether South Africa want an allrounder. Robin Peterson will do the spinning duties while any combination of two of the four quicks will play.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith 2 Hashim Amla 3 Faf du Plessis 4 AB de Villiers (capt) 5 Quinton de Kock (wk), 6 and 7 Colin Ingram/Farhaan Behardien/Ryan McLaren 8 Robin Peterson, 9, 10 and 11 Dale Steyn/Morne Morkel/Lonwabo Tsotsobe/Rory Kleinveldt
Guptill and Nicol should open the batting with Brendon McCullum at No.3. Williamson will have to move up a spot because of Ross Taylor's absence. James Franklin should have recovered from the hamstring injury which ruled him out of the Port Elizabeth Test. The allrounder's spot will be decided between Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham and Elliott while one of Neil Wagner or Mitchell McClenaghan could make their ODI debuts.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Rob Nicol 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 James Franklin, 6 BJ Watling, 7 Colin Munro/Jimmy Neesham/Grant Elliott 8 Nathan McCullum, 9, 10 and 11 Kyle Mills/Neil Wagner/Mitchell McClenaghan
Stats and Trivia:
- Despite last playing an ODI in September, South Africa are currently the No.1 ranked ODI team, one point ahead of England. New Zealand are ranked ninth.
- Paarl, which is one of South Africa's smaller grounds, is hosting its second ODI in as many summers as part of the drive to spread the game. Last January, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 43 at this venue, chasing 302 for victory.
- New Zealand's are without their top-ranked batsmen Ross Taylor (No.18 overall) and bowler Tim Southee (No.15) because of mismanagement and injury respectively. South Africa's highest places batsman on the rankings is Hashim Amla (No.1) and their best bowler is Lonwabo Tsotsobe (No.4). Both are in the squad.
Quotes:"For them, the change of format will be quite refreshing. New Zealand have always done well in World Cups, which means their very good at white-ball cricket as a unit. It will be a closer series." South Africa's first-choice spinner Robin Peterson expects the opposition to be more competitive in the fifty-over game
"I'm going to bat at No. 5. That will allow the aggressive guys up front followed by guys who know how to build an innings at 3 and 4." New Zealand's captain Brendon McCullum on the re-jigged batting order
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent