Cape Town – There is unlikely to be a huge amount of respite
for battered New Zealand when they round off their South African tour with the
three-match one-day international series starting in Paarl on Saturday (10:00
Several of their bruised – certainly mentally, and in some
instances physically – participants in the embarrassing Test series surrender
have to try to lift themselves with some haste for the ODIs, made up of a
daytime affair in the Boland and then successive day-nighters in Kimberley next
Tuesday and Potchefstroom on the Friday.
Black Caps personalities are trying, understandably, to draw
positives from the very switch from Test to limited-overs mode.
Commentator and former seam bowler Simon Doull said after
the second Test ended well before lunch at St George’s Park on Monday with a
crushing innings-and-193-run win for the remorseless Proteas: “The shorter the
form of the game, the more New Zealand will be capable of competing.”
Meanwhile vanquished Test captain Brendon McCullum, among
those players who must now make the switch of format, added: “One-day cricket
is a little more to our liking at this stage of our abilities ... and the new
guys (flown in for the ODIs) will bring some fresh enthusiasm, hopefully.”
At least in the likes of Kyle Mills, Rob Nicol and Nathan
McCullum they will be infusing some customers with solid experience – Mills
also brings a spot of welcome truculence -- in the ODI arena.
But at the same time, reasonably cowed characters like Trent
Boult, Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Neil Wagner and Kane Williamson will only
lock horns anew with Test-level tormentors of the calibre of Dale Steyn (a
deserved choice for player of the match in Port Elizabeth with his match haul
of eight for 65), Morne Morkel, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis,
Graeme Smith, Robin Peterson and Rory Kleinveldt.
Nor are there are any special signs, it must be noted, of
the Black Caps offering significantly greater competence in the 50-overs
fixtures: there are actually ranked one slot lower (ninth) at present than they
are at Test level – even Bangladesh are ahead in ODIs.
Nevertheless, the more compact forms of the game do tend to
bring minnow nations rather closer to juggernauts, and it will still be
reasonably fresh in many peeved South Africans’ minds that New Zealand dumped
out the Proteas in a tetchy Dhaka quarter-final at the last World Cup in 2011.
The pitches for the ODI series ought to belters for the most
part; Kimberley is especially renowned for being flat, sun-baked and
batting-friendly and last season Sri Lanka successfully chased down a target of
300 with eight balls to spare against De Villiers’s side.
Frankly it really doesn’t suit South Africa’s own purposes
very much, in terms of their reshaping plans for the next World Cup, if their
quickies simply bomb the visitors into submission all over again and the
batsmen don’t necessarily get subjected to enough pressure as a result.
Quietly, a better scenario for coach Gary Kirsten and his
lieutenants would be for the New Zealanders to lift their game a few notches
and have decent stints of ascendancy, even if a 3-0 sweep must be strongly on
the minds of the Proteas squad at this stage.
Veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis is being wisely rested
for this particular ODI series – he has little to prove after 321 caps in the
format! – and he is joined in feet-up status for a few days by Alviro Petersen
and Dean Elgar, fellow participants in the latest Test victory who can train
their thoughts already to the stiffer Test series against new visitors Pakistan
The first of three Tests (also featuring Newlands,
Centurion) against the potentially dangerous, fourth-ranked Pakistanis begins
at the Wanderers on February 1.
It is difficult to imagine Andrew Hudson’s national
selection panel having a lengthy task in picking an initial Test squad for that
series: there must be every chance that the current 14 (the team which won at
St George’s Park, plus Jacques Rudolph, Ryan McLaren and presently injured
Vernon Philander) will be returned en masse unless it is decided to trim it
back to 13.
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