South Africa take on New Zealand in a three-match ODI series starting on Wednesday, but with the Black Caps missing a few key players, how much importance does the series carry? SACricketmag.com picks five talking points.
Let’s be honest, this series doesn’t really have any meaning. It’s a standalone series between two teams who have an interesting history in World Cups, but that’s about it.
New Zealand are missing about four or five first-choice players, Brendon McCullum among them, while JP Duminy and Morne Morkel are on paternity leave.
If this is just going to be a revenge thriller for what happened at the World Cup, it’s going to be boring and irrelevant. What’s more interesting is South Africa’s quest to start rebuilding and reshaping parts of the team that need refreshing.
Nailing down No 7
It’s time to settle on a player to fill the No 7 batting spot in the side. It’s not a new issue and one that wasn’t addressed leading up to the World Cup, but it’s a vital position and has the potential to lend the team some much needed balance going forward. David Wiese is our pick and should be given a fair chance to prove himself worthy.
Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, David Miller, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel. Until now this has been South Africa’s preferred ODI line-up. For this series, however, De Kock, Du Plessis, Duminy and Morkel won’t be playing, which means a few fringe players will get the opportunity to stake their claims. Assuming Du Plessis will miss the entire series, as has been reported, it means two spots open up in the batting order. Morne van Wyk will replace De Kock and needs to score runs to stay involved. Rilee Rossouw should come in for Du Plessis and Behardien for Duminy, which means someone like Wiese can bat at seven. This may prove to be a watershed series for Behardien, who, if he plays every game, must once and for all prove that he belongs.
Dale Steyn is back, but Morne Morkel is gone. Kagiso Rabada should come in as a straight replacement for the latter as he further develops his game at the highest level, but don’t forget about Vernon Philander. He is fighting for his ODI future and if he replaces Morkel in the side then the decision will be between Rabada and Kyle Abbott. In Duminy’s absence, Behardien will likely get more opportunities to bowl, which can help him strengthen his case for future inclusion.
SA need the # back
If there is one player who does need a big series, it’s Hashim Amla. He’s had an indifferent 2015 by his own standards and has a highest score of 38 in his last seven ODIs. He’s got starts in certain matches, but has been unable to convert those into big scores and batting through the innings. It may not be a coincidence that his struggles have coincided with Quinton de Kock’s poor form throughout the year which has forced Amla to take more responsibility at the start of the innings.
That winning feeling
The two most important things in this series is for South Africa to build the depth in the squad and give fringe players a chance. The second one is to get that winning, feelgood feeling back that has been lacking ever since the World Cup. It’s time to banish the World Cup hangover and make up for the 2-1 series loss against Bangladesh. The only way to do that is to play good cricket and beat New Zealand convincingly. It won’t be easy, but with them missing so many key players it should be easier than usual. If the likes of Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers fire, then this should happen. What the Proteas can’t afford is another inconsistent, flat performance which results in a series defeat.