New Zealand in SA

Nervy few days for Proteas

2013-01-21 15:31
Hashim Amla (AFP)
Cape Town - Is the New Zealand “David” on the verge of a first-time felling of the South African “Goliath” in a one-day international series on our soil?

The resurgent Black Caps, presumably immensely heartened by their tail-end fightback to snatch the first of three contests at Paarl on Saturday, are tantalisingly poised to clinch the spoils at Kimberley on Tuesday (14:30 start).

It would be a turn-up for the books, given their current ranking of ninth - below even Bangladesh - in ODIs, and render the last fixture at Potchefstroom on Friday a dead-rubber affair ... with the host nation very unexpectedly the ones out of contention.

For their part, the Proteas will be hell-bent on bringing their A-game to the normally sun-baked, batting-friendly De Beers Diamond Oval  to ensure 1-1 parity and then put their trust in continuity to power them over the line at “Potch” for a come-from-behind outcome in their favour.

Certainly anything less than that scenario playing itself out will only add further fuel to a not unreasonable belief that South Africa’s limited-overs department remains some way off emulating its purring Test-level equivalent.

A surge in public optimism back in New Zealand, following the depressingly meek surrender in both of the two Tests, has been supplemented by the near-inevitable headline on Monday in national newspaper the New Zealand Herald: “Banned De Villiers boosts Black Caps”.

The suggestion is that the Proteas may be a tad vulnerable on the batting front after ODI captain AB de Villiers’s two-game suspension for a slow over rate at Paarl - a situation compounded by the absence of Jacques Kallis, who is resting for the Test series against Pakistan, and still-injured JP Duminy.

So what the Kimberley clash offers, from a South African perspective, is a perfect opportunity for currently reasonably borderline components of their batting arsenal - names like Colin Ingram, Quinton de Kock and likely debutant Farhaan Behardien rapidly spring to mind - to play a major innings at a time of real need and tick a box for future employment.

More than that, though, stalwarts Hashim Amla, who was unusually loose and overly carefree in approach at Paarl, and Graeme Smith may not have the luxury of second failures in succession in the short, sharp series if the Proteas are to stay in the hunt.

It is traditionally a high-scoring venue in ODIs, a situation that hasn’t changed a great deal since the last time these foes met in Kimberley back in October 2000 - on that occasion South Africa successfully chased down 288, with current coach Gary Kirsten scoring 101 and the machine-like Kallis 93.

The Proteas have drafted big-hitting Dolphins left-hander David Miller into the squad, following De Villiers’s temporary fall from grace, and may try to fit him into the side somehow, even if Behardien is presumably the next cab off the rank for the batting void.

That would have been easier to do, of course, had the evergreen Kallis been in the mix, because he offers a decent extra bowling option among the top four batsmen in the ODI order - something that may not be the case with the current stock of frontline batsmen.

It only highlights, once again, why the 37-year-old will still be an indispensible ingredient when the Proteas tackle the Champions Trophy in England in mid-year.

On paper, the Proteas really should still boast enough proven, high-quality names to down the Black Caps in Kimberley, but acting captain Faf du Plessis would do well to remind his troops that they should also not under-estimate for one second the sudden Kiwi scent of blood.

New Zealand, after all, have never previously won a bilateral series between the countries in South Africa, nor any other tournaments here that have featured both teams plus one or two others.

The Proteas rule the overall roost 14-3 in completed ODIs won in this country since re-admission; the Black Caps’ only wins have come in the 2003 World Cup, when they triumphed by nine wickets at the Wanderers in a Duckworth/Lewis-influenced match (though deservedly so), at Port Elizabeth preceding a 2-1 series loss in 2007/08, and then at Paarl on Sunday.

Should New Zealand upset the Proteas again in the “Big Hole”, it would thus also be their first achievement of successive ODI victories against South Africa away.

The Proteas’ bowling effort was largely acceptable in trying to defend - and so nearly doing so - an unusually low total in the Boland town at the weekend, although their specialist coach in that area of the game, Allan Donald, would do well to work anew on eliminating a virus of wides and no-balls.

South Africa served up 17 offences in that regard to the New Zealanders’ 10 at Paarl, with Rory Kleinveldt particularly culpable, and those extra deliveries required presumably went a long way to explaining why the hosts must suffer the strong inconvenience of no De Villiers for the next few pretty important days ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  nz in sa  |  graeme smith  |  cricket
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