Paarl: South Africa won the Test series, the two Twenty20s were shared and now it’s time for the final leg of the tour – a three-match ODI series. Considering their dismal showing in the two Tests, in which fragile batting was the reason for innings defeats, the odds remain stacked against New Zealand for the first ODI in Paarl on Saturday.
What could give New Zealand reason to feel a bit better about their chances are the absence of a resting Jacques Kallis and the possibility of not having to face Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in all three matches. With an eye on the ICC Champions Trophy in June, it is foreseeable that South Africa rotate their squad in an attempt to figure out the best group of players. Four of the squad picked for this series have yet to debut in the 50-over game, though Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock and Aaron Phangiso have played in Twenty20 internationals and pacer Rory Kleinveldt has appeared in both T20Is and Tests.
De Kock kept wicket in the T20Is and with all signs indicating that South Africa want to allow de Villiers focus on captaincy and his batting, the 20-year-old looks set to don the gloves in all three matches. Behardian should debut in the middle order, but Phansigo and Kleinveldt will most likely sit out with Robin Peterson the lead spinner and Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Ryan McLaren partnering one of Steyn and Morkel.
For New Zealand, who failed to challenge South Africa in the Tests, these three matches provide an opportunity to assess whether their ODI prospects are also looking positive ahead of the English summer. They have been poor in the last 12 months, losing ODI series at home to South Africa and in the West Indies and Sri Lanka. The current squad includes a crop of rookie ODI players. Mitchell McClenaghan, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham featured in the T20Is and Murno and Neil Wagner in the Tests. Ronnie Hira has yet to feature on tour and has not played an ODI yet.
New Zealand’s top five look straightforward picks and allrounder Grant Elliott looks primed for his first ODI in over two years. James Franklin will also be expected to deliver with bat and ball and Nathan McCullum should be the primary spinner in New Zealand's XI. Kyle Mills should get preference over the rookies due to his experience, meaning that there could be debuts for one of Wagner or Munro.
The surface at Boland Park is expected to assist the quick bowlers, giving South Africa an advantage. This is the venue where Sri Lanka were rolled over for just 43 in an ODI last January, the lowest total recorded against South Africa. New Zealand have met South Africa just four times in the last three years – all since March 25, 2011, when they knocked Graeme Smith's team out of the World Cup – and lost all three ODIs at home last year.
South Africa: 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Colin Ingram, 5 AB de Villiers (capt), 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Ryan McLaren, 9 Robin Peterson, 10 Dale Steyn/Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Rob Nicol, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 BJ Watling, 6 Grant Elliott, 7 James Franklin, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Neil Wagner/Colin Munro, 11 Trent Boult