A month ago, South Africa’s aim was to win both the series in New Zealand and Australia ahead of the World Cup. They have already managed half of that that. South Africa also wanted to ensure their ranking was as high as could be before the big event.
Although the fixture is a dead rubber, if South Africa blank New Zealand in Hamilton, it will keep them at No.1 on the ODI charts and send their already high confidence soaring even more as they head to Australia. A loss, however, will push them down to No.3 below India. South Africa have seen that even in unfamiliar conditions at an unusual time in the cricket calendar, and even when are not at their best, they can still win matches. Mount Maunganui had only hosted one ODI before South Africa played there, and there had never been an international game played in New Zealand in October prior to this series.
Now they will want to correct the last of those concerns. Finishing off teams once they have got on top of them will be the task of the attack provided they enjoy another strong start and a more meaty showing from the middle order will be expected.
Knowing South Africa still have improvements to make will leave New Zealand nervous but they have pride to salvage. What New Zealand need most are runs and without two of their marquee batsmen, those will be tough to find but Brendon McCullum is hopeful they will come. Stunning a South African side that seems to be getting more resourceful with each game will put New Zealand’s preparations for their summer, which culminate with the World Cup, back on track.
(last five completed games most recent first)
New Zealand LLWWT
South Africa WWWWL
In the spotlight
In his last six innings across formats, Martin Guptill has failed to score more than 15 runs and will know the pressure is on to change that. With James Neesham still finding his feet in the opening role and Jesse Ryder knocking on the door outside, it will be up to Guptill to provide the stability New Zealand need to bat, as Brendon McCullum has put it, “according to our blueprint.” South Africa’s seamers have been miserly and destructive upfront, but Guptill has seen them off before and will need to do it again to help New Zealand salvage something from the contest.
After Hashim Amla expressed full confidence in Quinton de Kock to become South Africa’s next “superstar,” Amla went on to record his 16th ODI century, which proved a series-winning one for South Africa. So the onus is still on de Kock to come good. He broke through a run of four single-figure scores in ODIs with 26 in the second game, but has not batted with the same carefree confidence he showed earlier. Perhaps the tightening up for the World Cup is cramping his style or perhaps it’s the inevitable lull that follows an explosive start finally taking root. Either way, it will be interesting to see how de Kock climbs out of it.
New Zealand’s options to change things around lie mainly in their bowling department, where they could give Matt Henry a second cap, back Kyle Mills, or make room for Nathan McCullum either to bowl with or in place of Daniel Vettori. But what they need is some beefing up in the batting. However, with no reserve batsman available, those in the XI will have to make better use of their opportunities.
New Zealand: (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Jimmy Neesham, 3 Dean Brownlie, 4 Tom Latham, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt), 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
With the series already won, South Africa will likely look to give those players who have not had a game yet, an opportunity. Imran Tahir will miss out after picking up a shoulder injury in the second ODI, so South Africa will likely persist with an extra fast bowler. Kyle Abbott could come in, and there is the possibility of Wayne Parnell replacing Vernon Philander, especially if Ryan McLaren is to come back into the XI. If they opt to give Rilee Rossouw another game, then one of the specialist batsmen may have to miss out. The only person who is unlikely to feature is Robin Peterson, who would have traveled from South Africa at the weekend and may need to recover from jetlag.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 and 4 Faf du Plessis/ Rilee Rossouw/JP Duminy 5 AB de Villiers (capt), 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Vernon Philander/Wayne Parnell, 9 and 10 Dale Steyn 11 IKyle Abbott/Morne Morkel
Stats and trivia
- The last time South Africa played an ODI series in New Zealand, in February 2012, they blanked the hosts 3-0. But the last time New Zealand played in South Africa, in December 2013, New Zealand won 2-1.
- Hashim Amla is five runs away from leapfrogging Virat Kohli and Kumar Sangakkara as the leading run-scorer in ODIs this year.
- Luke Ronchi and Mitchell McClenaghan’s 10th wicket stand of 76 in the second ODI did not just set a New Zealand record for highest partnership in that position, but is also the highest last-wicket partnership this year.
“I know the guys are very desperate to put in a more solid batting performance that what we’ve showed. We have one more game to do so, on a different surface, a surface which we know more a bit more about.”
Brendon McCullum is looking forward to getting back to familiar territory in Hamilton
“We came here to win the series and we’ve achieved that, so I’m very proud of the guys.”