Depleted teams face off in low-stakes clash
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Start time 1230 local (1030GMT)
It would be impossible to look ahead to this fixture without remembering the drama that took place the last time South Africa and New Zealand met in an ODI. Irrespective of whose side you were on, or even if you were on no-one's at all, the enormity of the occasion, the tension and the emotions would have had an impact. It would be equally impossible to expect anything close to that happening in this series.
That match in March was being played for a place in the World Cup final. These three matches are being played to fulfill a scheduling obligation. Just that fact reveals how low the stakes are. That's a good thing because this series is flying under the radar in the cricketing world, where the final Ashes Test and Kumar Sangakkara's retirement are stealing headlines, and their own countries, both rugby-obsessed, are gearing up for the World Cup. In New Zealand, the television channels were unable to secure the rights to broadcast the series so fans have to be content with radio commentary, if they feel like staying up through the night. South Africans have received it a little better. They are enjoying the return of cricket after seven months, despite it not being the season for it just yet.
Winter conditions could be revealed for the first time after the T20s were played in what may have seemed like summer. Durban's tropical weather and a warm Centurion afternoon would have chill seem like a myth but both teams will experience it on Wednesday night. Evenings on the Highveld can be bitterly cold and how that could impact play is anyone's guess.
South Africa have never played an ODI at home in August before. So neither side will be sure if chasing will provide any advantage, as it can do in summer when dew becomes a factor. That won't be the only unknown they are grappling with. Both teams are without some of their regulars - South Africa are sans Quinton de Kock (dropped), JP Duminy and Morne Morkel (paternity leave) and probably Faf du Plessis (injured) while New Zealand don't have Brendon McCullum and Tim Southee (rested) and Trent Boult and Ross Taylor (injured) - and will want to test combinations and trial new players.
(last five completed games, most recent first)
South Africa LLWLW
New Zealand WWLLL
In the spotlight
After being given the limited-overs leg of the Bangladesh series off Dale Steyn is back to the fifty-over format and will have to lead a South African attack still trying to decide who its premier pacemen in this version are. Vernon Philander, Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada are all in the squad, with Morne Morkel out on paternity leave. Steyn and Rabada are likely to be the shoo-ins, which might leave Abbott and Philander competing for a spot.
Colin Munro is 28-years old but is still considered part of New Zealand's new crop and this is his chance to change that. He has only played nine ODIs - just two since being recalled to the format for this tour - and will want to kick on better than he did the first time he toured South Africa, in his debut series. In 2013, Munro scored the first of two half-centuries in his short ODI career so far before falling off the radar. This time, he will want to stay on it.
Dean Elgar has been added to South Africa's squad as cover for Faf du Plessis, who has a knee injury. A late call will be taken on his availability but if he is ruled out of either the first match, or the full series, Farhaan Behardien will take his place in the XI, probably slotting in at No. 6. Rilee Rossouw should get a promotion to No. 3 and one of Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander may have to miss out to accommodate David Wiese in the allrounder's role at No. 7. Imran Tahir is back to take over the specialist spinner's role.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Morne van Wyk (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Rilee Rossouw, 4 AB de Villiers (capt) 5 David Miller, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 David Wiese, 8 Kyle Abbott/Vernon Philander, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn 11 Imran Tahir
Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill opened in the T20s, but Williamson is likely to drop to No.3 for this format, with Tom Latham at the top. New Zealand will probably only have room for one spinner which could mean one of Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan, Ben Wheeler, Doug Bracewell or Matt Henry has to miss out.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Colin Munro, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 James Neesham, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9,10 and 11 Adam Milne/Mitchell McClenaghan/Ben Wheeler/Doug Bracewell/Matt Henry
Pitch and conditions
Pre-spring conditions in Centurion were not as welcoming to cricket as they were in Durban and South Africa found it more difficult to adapt to what AB de Villers called "not a perfect," surface. It was cracked but while there wasn't much turn, a brutish short ball could rear up. There were plenty of runs so maybe it's the outfield the hosts were unhappy with. "Looked like anyone would break a leg there," coach Russell Domingo said of the unstable ground, which had to be painted green to hide its winter coat. "Hopefully they can spray the pitch as well," Domingo joked.
The strip is not likely to get any more spicy and there may also be the added conundrum of how it will behave under lights. Domingo said his gut feel is to bat second at SuperSport Park but that's in summer when dew becomes a factor. It may not be the case in August. At least the weather will play along. A clear day is forecast with a high of 28 but it will get chilly in the evening when temperatures will get as low as 11 degrees.
Stats and trivia
- There is a slight advantage to fielding first at SuperSport Park where the chasing team has won 25 of the 46 matches played - 54% - and the team batting first has won 19 matches - 41% - with two no results.
- Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor are the three leading run-scorers in ODIs this year. Williamson has scored 1224 runs at 61.20, Guptill 1149 at 49.95 and Taylor, who is not playing this series, 1041 at 61.23. Grant Elliott is fifth with 826 runs at 48.58.
- South Africa's first appearance on the list comes at No.6 with Hashim Amla. who has scored 797 runs at 61.30 followed by AB de Villiers at No.7 with 731 runs at 91.37.
"It (conditions) was quite a challenge. The good thing is the outfield is quick. When the ball was on the ground it went to the boundary pretty comfortably. Diving looked quite dangerous."
Hashim Amla adds to the concerns over the SuperSport Park outfield, where there is likely to be less athleticism shown than normal.
"If we keep trying to play with that aggressive nature, it's going to be a good series."
New Zealand opening batsman Tom Latham promises New Zealand will not back down during the three-match series.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent