South Africa vs New Zealand | Wednesday 19 August | Centurion | 12:30
With the T20 series squared and out of the way, the Proteas host New Zealand for three relatively pointless ODIs. The approaching World T20 gives the short-form contests some type of relevance in terms of preparation, however, the commencement of a set of ODIs for ranking sake alone simply contributes to perhaps the greatest blight of the sport; uninteresting bilaterals. The whole cricketing business model needs an overhaul, but that is a rant best saved for another piece and platform. The first of the obligatory ODIs takes place at a dry and dusty Centurion, a ground at which both sides mistakenly fielded two spinners in the T20 contest.
To Win Match
South Africa 4/10
New Zealand 2/1
The top order along with an impressive Aaron Phangiso led the Proteas to a T20 win Durban. However, in Pretoria, South Africa folded in the face of a stiff but not overwhelming total and have still only chased in excess of 170 once in a T20 international. Morne van Wyk had two opportunities at the top of the order and behind the stumps, after it was announced that AB de Villiers would take control of both duties for the World T20. With the injury to Faf du Plessis, van Wyk made his claim for a place in the World T20 squad but probably didn’t do enough to secure it. de Villiers will not be made to open the batting and keep wicket for the ODI series but will skipper the side, and van Wyk will slot in for the dropped Quinton de Kock. An issue that can be identified from the T20 series is the need to find better lengths and penetration during the powerplay overs, a skill that will be just as important in the fifty-over game. The Proteas bowled too full in both T20s and allowed New Zealand to hit through the arc early in the innings. This will need to be adjusted, as well as the style of play to accommodate a Centurion pitch in August. The Proteas did not adapt well to the surface and will want to make better use of home conditions.
The Black Caps brought a touring party banking on youngsters to rise to the fore and perform, only for the majority of the contingent to be entirely outshone by old hands Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson. For New Zealand, the entire exercise in blooding T20 youngsters may prove fruitless given their performances. New Zealand’s squad remains unchanged for the upcoming ODI series and presents another few opportunities for the young Kiwi crop to stamp their authority upon proceedings. New Zealand were flat and unimpressive in Durban but played far better to take victory from the final T20 in Pretoria. Martin Guptill played the anchor role as the side racked up 177 on the Highveld, seeing the middle-order take up a certain degree of responsibility that was completely lacking in the previous contest. With both sides fielding two spinners at Centurion and encountering a pitch not entirely receptive to it, the seamers were forced to find ways to slow scoring. New Zealand used the short ball with aplomb on the dry surface and will likely employ a similar tactic here.
As mentioned, the sides are faced with a very different Centurion surface to what they would be used to. Usually a strip that offers pace and bounce, the winter has ensured that the pitch is devoid of moisture and pedestrian. That is not to say that the seamers cannot prosper, they must simply adjust their plans accordingly. No rain is forecast.
VERDICT: South Africa 4/10
Having experienced the conditions in Pretoria one must assume that the Proteas will enter this encounter with a strategy tailormade. I also feel that the current squad possesses a better bowling attack that can react better to match situations, as well as make better use of the rough surface. Despite missing JP Duminy and Morne Morkel to paternity leave, I’m tipping the Proteas to begin the series with a win.