South Africa came from an embarrassing tour of Bangladesh while New Zealand came from a successful one in Zimbabwe. Looking at both teams and their recent tours, New Zealand looks the better of the two even though key players are left out for various reasons.
Even though South Africa won the first T20I, it wasn’t convincing enough. Their opening bowlers failed to take those crucial early wickets and allowed the New Zealand openers to make a solid start in both T20Is. However, they allowed New Zealand’s opening bowlers to claim early wickets and leave them shaking in their boots. The final T20I was worse: New Zealand left South Africa grasping at straws while they moved towards a victory.
Now that the T20Is are done and dusted, we can all move onto the ODIs. Let’s hope everyone has gotten over the shock of South Africa hosting New Zealand in August. The only good thing about hosting in winter is that - with a bit of luck - there’ll be no rain interruptions.
If SuperSport Park played a role in South Africa losing the final T20I, it also made sure they won the 1st ODI by the skin of their teeth. Did you see that ground? It was terrible. It had to be sprayed green to make it look aesthetically pleasing. Cricket in August, who came up with that idea? Especially with Martin Guptill and Kane Wiliamson opening the batting, New Zealand couldn’t ask for better, even though Williamson will slip back down to his usual spot at number 3.
It might be great to watch these two closely contested teams when they play their World Cup semi-final rematch. New Zealand are currently ranked third in the ICC ODI rankings while South Africa are ranked fourth. Besides, with only one rating point separating the two, New Zealand will either push for a bigger lead or South Africa will fight to overtake them and hopefully become third. If either team succeeds, they’ll be looking to narrow the gap between them and second placed India.
This will be a rematch for South African pride after New Zealand beat them in that unforgettable dramatic World Cup semi-final.
Which match out of the three ODIs will be regarded as the rematch?
As the setting is not even remotely similar, it’s doubtful these matches will be as exhilarating as that semi-final showdown. Will the players fight tooth and nail or is any result acceptable?
In all honesty, if it was not for an interesting history in World Cups, there might not be a New Zealand tour of South Africa. Come to think of it, there’s no real excitement behind these matches. It even came as a surprise that the stadiums were packed, even though not completely.
On the one hand, New Zealand will be without Captain Brendon McCullum and Tim Southee who are being rested while Trent Boult, Corey Anderson, Ross Taylor and Mitchell Santner are riddled with injuries.
On the other hand, South Africa will be without Quinton de Kock (whose fluctuating form is no secret), Faf du Plessis (injury), JP Duminy and Morne Morkel (paternity leave).
Remember the bowling attack of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander which failed South Africa in the World Cup semi-final? The same pair will play in the ODIs along with maestro leg spinner Imran Tahir.
The tour is a great chance for both teams to let their fringe players have a crack, and with any luck if any future injuries occur, they’ll know who the best man for the job will be.
For South Africa, this tour could be their way of rebuilding the team. Finding a proper number 7 and a wicketkeeper-batsman. Recently David Wiese has been the go-to-guy when it comes to the number 7 spot. South Africa should stick with him for a while and see how it goes – forget the whole chopping and changing ideology. There also needs to be a player who will compete with de Kock to be South Africa’s number 1 wicketkeeper.
Most importantly, they need to figure out where AB de Villiers will bat and they need to figure it out fast. Enough of taking two steps forward and ten steps back. If de Villiers bats well at number 4, keep him there, unless you know for a fact that he will be remarkable higher up the order.
It’s sad that the result of the T20Is, ODIs, playing cricket in August (in South Africa) and the so-called World Cup rematch, will be the only things memorable about New Zealand’s tour. Maybe calling it a tour is a bit bland. It should be known as the curtain raiser or practice for the cricket season.
Positively, the tour of India from a South African perspective will bring exciting cricket even though, or because, it could be a challenging tour in the subcontinent. Especially with the South Africa A Team embarrassing themselves just recently.
For now, let’s see how the rest of the New Zealand tour will turn out.