Sport

Heavy bruising: Picture’s bleak for the Black (and blue) Caps

By Ant Sims 16 January 2013

After the Proteas trounced the Black Caps in the Test format, memories of the 2011 World Cup, when New Zealand knocked South Africa out of the tournament, will be flushed. And as things stand, things look pretty grim for the visitors as the sides prepare to battle in the one-day arena. By ANT SIMS.

If New Zealand were looking for any sort of positives ahead of their one-day series against South Africa, they’ll be hard-pressed to find any with the first match happening in Paarl on Saturday. Boland Park is the same ground where South Africa embarrassed Sri Lanka last year, bowling them out for 43 in 20.1 overs.

It’s a wicket Rory Kleinveldt knows well; he’s played there often in the last decade, and the 29-year-old is expecting conditions to assist the bowlers when the two sides lock horns for the first of three ODIs.

“The one-day wickets have become quite good there,” Kleinveldt said. 

“Usually they are slow and low, but over the last year or two there have been some big scores. The wickets have a bit more pace and bounce, so it should be a good wicket.”

Kleinveldt had a good run in the domestic one-day cup recently, and has played over a hundred List A games. While it might seem natural to assume that the shorter format is preferable for the Cobras’ man, Kleinveldt says he sees himself as a player who can slot into all formats of the game.

 “I enjoy the first-class format as well. I have done well recently in one-day cricket, so I’m looking forward to that and hopefully contributing positively to a series win.”   

With the way the Black Caps have been bruised and battered during their tour to South Africa, the conditions almost seem irrelevant. While many will recall that match in the World Cup of 2011 against New Zealand which saw South Africa crash out of the tournament in spectacular fashion, the damage inflicted in the Test matches, physically and mentally, will almost certainly hang over the Kiwis’ heads.

While a few players from the Test side will make room for fresh legs carted in for the one-day format, even New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum didn’t sound entirely convinced of the prospect of competing in the shorter format.

“One-day cricket is a little more to our liking at this stage of our abilities and the new guys (flown in for the ODIs) will bring some fresh enthusiasm, hopefully,” said McCullum.

Cavalry has been brought in in the form of Kyle Mills, Rob Nicol, Grant Elliot and Nathan McCullum, but beaten men Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Neil Wagner and Kane Williamson will have to exorcise any lurking demons pretty quickly.

Even the official ICC rankings hold no solace for the battered Black Caps. South Africa is currently ranked second, while New Zealand is ninth, below Bangladesh. If they’re searching for any sort of morale boosting anecdote, they’re unlikely to find one.

For South Africa, the three-match series is a horse of a different colour. They are looking to blood a few new names and find some form ahead of the Champions Trophy being played in England later in the year – all while trying to get the best out of some of their stalwarts.

Having the luxury of being able to experiment and mix things up a bit can only be a good thing both for selectors and the cricket-viewing public. While the SABC screened the Test series in bursts of highlights packages and blocks of live content, the ODI series will be live, giving cricket fans the opportunity to familiarise themselves with some of the names who have done well on the domestic circuit and rightfully earned their elevation to the national side.

There’s one small speck of worry for South Africa, though. Wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock could face a two-match ban after he was involved in altercation with Alistair Gray during a first class game last week.

The two apparently exchanged some colourful words while De Kock allegedly shoved Gray because of a disagreement over a replacement ball which was chosen during the match. 

The youngster will appear before a disciplinary commissioner “as soon as possible” and if he is found guilty, will be banned for two matches, meaning he will play no part in the first two games of the series.

This means that AB de Villiers will be forced to take up the duties behind the stumps again, despite having asked for some reprise from the duty due to his back issues and his desire to keep wicket in Test matches. DM

Photo: New Zealand’s Dean Brownlie avoids a bouncer on day three of the second cricket test match against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

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