New Zealand in SA
Nervy few days for Proteas
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
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
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
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
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 ...
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