Mills talks up chances in one-day showdown
You could not ask for a worse preparation.
The Black Caps are coming off a 2-0 test series loss, where the scoreline goes nowhere near telling the story of how one-sided the fixtures were, they're still missing four of their best players, and now another scandal with their employers has erupted back home.
The rehashing of Taylor-gate yesterday, following a leaked letter from bowling coach Shane Bond to New Zealand Cricket, leaves the sports body with more egg on its already omelette-covered face.
And now the players get to face the South African one-day team, ranked No 1 in the world, a whopping eight places higher than they are.
One respite at least - the South Africans are resting Jacques Kallis - the fifth highest ODI run scorer of all time.
The first of the three-match series begins tonight at Paarl.
As expected, the New Zealanders are rank outsiders, paying $4 to the home side's $1.22 to win tonight, and $5.50 to win the series, compared with the Proteas' $1.12.
Senior New Zealand player Kyle Mills believes his side are a strong one-day unit, and if they can reproduce some of their best form they will be competitive.
"Look, we're under no illusions that this is going to be a tough task over here," Mills said.
"South Africa are No 1 in the world, they're a quality unit across the board. We're going to have to play exceptionally well in all facets of the game."
He said the thumping test series loss would soon be forgotten.
"It's been a pretty disappointing couple of weeks for the guys that have been over here, but this is a new form of the game and half the group are a new set of faces as well," Mills said.
"Our one-day form has generally been pretty good. [We've been] semifinalists in major tournaments around the world."
In the last 12 months, New Zealand have played 16 ODIs: two have been no-results, four have been victories - three against Zimbabwe - and 10 were losses.
That has led to New Zealand sitting behind Bangladesh on the ICC rankings.
Mills is one of eight one-day specialists to join the team, hoping to first of all compete with South Africa, and secondly to put New Zealand's one-day form right.
He said he was uncertain what to expect from the Paarl surface, although history might suggest to bat first.
Five of the eight completed matches have been won by the team batting first, but the last game could be the most telling.
South Africa met Sri Lanka at the Boland Park ground 12 months ago and scored 301. They then skittled Sri Lanka for just 43.
One man fizzing at the chance to play is South African-born injury replacement Grant Elliott.
He hasn't played for New Zealand for more than two years, but the allrounder replaced Corey Anderson last week in South Africa.
"They're a good team, but one-day cricket probably brings skill sets closer with the teams, and we've always proven we're quite a good one-day team," he said.
"I'm really excited, especially to come back to South Africa and play against South Africa.
"It'll be a big series. I'm pretty up for it."
Hopefully the rest of the squad feel the same.
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: First one-day international.
When and where: Today, at Paarl, 9pm (NZ time).
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (c), Trent Boult, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Roneel Hira, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Rob Nicol, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (c), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
TAB odds: New Zealand $4, South Africa $1.22
The Dominion Post