South Africa vs New Zealand | Wednesday 26 August | Kingsmead, Durban | 12:30
Although the series lies poised at 1-1 with every chance of still securing it outright, the Proteas would have been disappointed with their performances so far. New Zealand are nowhere near full strength yet fought back in the opening ODI to significantly lessen the margin of defeat, before adapting far better to the vagaries of the pitch in Potchefstroom to level the series. The tour returns to Kingsmead for its swansong and the Proteas will be desperate to enact a repeat of their comfortable victory in the opening T20 and prevent the Black Caps from leaving the country with consecutive ODI prizes.
To Win Match
South Africa 9/20
New Zealand 17/10
Buzzwords have a way of enforcing their own unique type of irony. Even Protea captain AB de Villiers mentioned how the “Protea Fire” was lacking in their opening ODI victory. The twenty-run margin served to flatter New Zealand as the Proteas laboured to a boring conclusion in Pretoria. As can be said for the atmosphere for much of this tour, the Proteas were low-key and lacked intensity. With Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw having combined for 185-runs for the second wicket, the Proteas just crossed 300 on an early season pitch for an above-par score. The innings was a job well done but the fielding was sloppy in defending it, Dale Steyn having three catches dropped alone. David Wiese had a poor debut, dropping chances and travelling for nine-an-over. Hope was evident in the likes of Imran Tahir and the energy of Steyn, but it seemed inevitable that the Proteas would be made to pay for their complacency should it carry over to the next encounter.
De Villiers’ decision to bat first at the toss in Potchefstroom flouted the history that stated the benefits of chasing at the ground. Losing the openers early, the South African innings never really got going as they lost wickets at regular intervals and struggled to inflate the run-rate. A fighting 70 from Farhaan Behardien and a cameo of 30 from Vernon Philander brought some degree of respectability to the South African total, yet an opening stand of 126 from Martin Guptill and Tom Latham took the game away. The Proteas will now have to lift themselves for one final encounter to secure the series and salvage some home pride against the Black Caps, but more dropped chances in the second match means the fielding must improve fast.
Martin Guptill crafted his fourth ODI century of the year to spearhead the successful chase of South Africa’s mediocre 207. Tom Latham scored 64 and formed the other part of New Zealand highest opening partnership against South Africa in ODI history. The bowlers had set the tone early on and Doug Bracewell collected career-best figures of 3/31 from his allotted ten overs. The Black Caps made it very difficult for the Proteas to score with clever changes of pace, cutters and subtle changes in length. As a result, they created pressure and subsequently, chances.
New Zealand have become something of an enigma when it comes to series comebacks. Once they have had a chance to assess conditions it seems they become better as the series progresses. The side lost the opening ODIs in both England and Zimbabwe before winnings the next matches and surging to series victories. They will be well aware that a repeat of the trend could be on the cards in Durban, having had a chance to get a feel for conditions in the earlier T20 clash.
As with all of the pitches as this early stage of the South African season, Kingsmead is likely to be a little bit sluggish before perhaps quickening up at the change of innings. It may be a good idea to chase here, as the ball tends to come onto the bat easier later into the afternoon. Temperatures are predicted to be good with little chance of rain, which could change in an instant in Durban.
VERDICT: South Africa 9/20
The toss will probably be important in this one and although New Zealand are available at a tempting price given their recent comebacks, I’m sticking with the Proteas to gather themselves and close out the series. They will be aware that the current cricket is not up to standard and I expect a much better performance.