Auckland: The high for New Zealand after sweeping Zimbabwe across all formats last month has been swiftly preceded by a numbing low thanks to a far superior South African side. The pre-series talk was largely about how much South Africa would test New Zealand, and whether or not the hosts could adjust after walloping a weak Zimbabwe. The answer, on the basis of a 2-1 Twenty20 loss and a 2-0 scoreline going into the third and final one-day international at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday, is pretty self-explanatory.
New Zealand's bowlers have struggled to find the right lengths to contain a strong South African batting line-up, and the batsmen – barring the captain Brendon McCullum – have not been able to stand up to the visitors' bowling attack. Comments from Kyle Mills about the sizes of the grounds playing into South Africa's hands have done little to indicate that New Zealand are capable of beating their opponents and there is a lingering feeling that the home team's stunning collapse in the deciding Twenty20 a couple weekends ago has ceded the momentum to South Africa.
Having managed an unassailable 2-0 lead, there will be plenty of confidence in the South African side. New Zealand have shown some spirit on the field, but some reckless batting, squandered starts and an inability to forge big partnerships has let them down.
In Wellington, venue for the first ODI, South Africa's bowlers did well to restrict New Zealand to 253 for 9 before AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis swung the match decisively in their team's favour. In Napier, South Africa wrapped up the series thanks to Morne Morkel's five wickets and Hashim Amla's 92 which guided a successful chase of 231 inside 39 overs. Clearly, South Africa have been the dominant side.
New Zealand were expected to challenge South Africa, but the hosts will be disappointed with the series being decided in two straight games. They did put South Africa under pressure during their chase in Wellington, but then fell apart in the face of an outstanding century from de Villiers. In the second ODI, New Zealand cruised to 163 for 2 in the 33rd over before losing eight wickets for 67 runs.
South Africa may be tempted to rest a few players now that the series has been won. Wayne Parnell could get a game in place of Dale Steyn, and Robin Peterson could sit out for Johan Botha. One player South Africa will surely look to get some runs out of is Jacques Kallis, who has been off-colour in the ODIs.
With Jesse Ryder axed for disciplinary reasons, his place in the middle order is likely to go to Tom Latham in New Zealand's XI. The legspinner Tarun Nethula could also make way for Nathan McCullum.
New Zealand: 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt/wk), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Tom Latham, 6 James Franklin, 7 Andrew Ellis, 8 Tarun Nethula/Nathan McCullum, 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Andy McKay.
South Africa: 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Graeme Smith, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt/wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faff du Plessis, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Wayne Parnell, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe.