Can The Proteas get their tour of New Zealand off to the ideal start when they take on the Black Caps in a one-off T20.
It's Faf du Plessis vs Kane Williamson as South Africa get their tour of New Zealand underway with a one-off T20 International at Eden Park this Friday.
Can the Proteas put in yet another solid performance after their 5-0 thrashing of Sri Lanka or will Kane Williamson and his Black Caps lay down a marker for the upcoming ODI series?
New Zealand vs South Africa | Friday 17 February | Eden Park, Auckland | 07:30
To Win Match
New Zealand 1/1 | Tie 35/1 | South Africa 82/100
The big story coming out of New Zealand ahead of this one-off T20 international is the continued absence of Ross Taylor from the squad. The Kiwi batsman claims he hasn’t received any reasons from Mike Hesson as to why he hasn't been selected.
Truth be told, his own poor performance at the World T20, coupled with solid displays by other top order batsman against Bangladesh has seen his stock fall in the shortest format of the game, although he has been included in the squad to do ODI duty against the touring South Africans. Martin Guptill also misses out on the one-off T20 after a calf strain picked up against Australia, however, he has been included in the ODI squad.
While South Africa have strength throughout their squad, the Black Caps will be heavily reliant on four or five guys. Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi, Colin Munro and Kane Williamson. The latter is obviously the biggest threat to the South Africans.
Williamson has hit two half-centuries in his last three T20 internationals and will be keen on putting a relatively inexperienced South African attack to the sword. He’ll be looking to Colin Munro to support him at a ground where they’ve both experienced success in this format of the game. Both men have played four T20 internationals at the ground, each scoring 156 runs at an average of 52.00.
Bowling wise, the strike combination of Boult and Southee will be vital in keeping an explosive South African top order quiet. They need to hit their straps early or face an absolute blitzing from the likes of de Kock, de Villiers and du Plessis. It’ll also be interesting to see how Sodhi does in his first T20 since bagging figures of 6/11 in the Big Bash.
The Indian-born leg-spinner has since been occupying himself with List A duty in the Ford Trophy for Northern Districts. He currently sits fourth in the wicket-taking stakes have claimed 14 scalps in the six matches he’s been involved in. He’s a tricky customer who isn’t afraid to throw the ball up to the best of the best – whether or not he’ll be effective against the best top order in the world remains to be seen.
For AB de Villiers and his South African charges, it’ll be a return to the ground where they lost that World Cup semi-final against the Black Caps. No South African cricket fan will forget the images coming through of Grant Elliot depositing a length ball from Dale Steyn over long-on into the stands.
The furore in the coming days would thrust South Africa’s quota system into the international consciousness as a semi-fit Vernon Philander played instead of an in-form Kyle Abbott. Anyway, that’s all in the past now, the Proteas – weather permitting – will look to exact revenge on Kane Williamson and co.
Faf du Plessis has already come out saying that his side will need to put pressure on the likes of Williamson, Boult and Southee at a ground where New Zealand have a bit of a patchy T20 history. They’ve only won five out of 11 games with one of those defeats coming against the Proteas in 2012.
It’s difficult to see SouthAfrica losing this match, especially considering the strength of the squad they’ve brought over to New Zealand. David Miller returns to the squad to add more venom to an already powerful top and middle order which includes the likes of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, de Villiers and du Plessis.
Du Plessis is currently in the form of his life after blitzing the Sri Lankans in the ODI segment of the tour, bagging an incredible 410 runs in five matches at an average of 102.50.
Imran Tahir has also hit a rich vein of form, similar to that of du Plessis. The leg-spinner was incredible against Sri Lanka picking up 10 wickets in five matches. That’s to be expected, though. What surprised many was how well he stemmed the flow of runs, not something he’s been particularly good at over the years.
He gave the Sri Lankans absolutely no freebies and supported his seamers beautifully throughout the series. Chris Morris slotted back into the side beautifully after spending the end of last year out with injury while Wayne Parnell's 11 wickets in four ODIs seems to suggest that he could finally have cemented a place in the South African set-up after a few false dawns.
Verdict: South Africa 82/100
Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand are a good side who can mix it up with the best on their day. There just isn’t any glaring weakness in the South African side though, especially with David Miller returning to the mix. Back South Africa to pick up a fairly straight-forward win at 82/100.
Value Bet: A hundred to be scored in the match: Yes 8/1
There have only been 24 centuries scored in T20 International cricket with the most recent of those coming courtesy of a storming innings from Colin Munro against Bangladesh. Both sides are jam-packed with explosive batsmen, and on such a small ground, there‘s a pretty good chance we could see century number 25. Small stake on at 8/1.