Black Caps chase unlikely ODI series victory
In-form New Zealand batsman BJ Watling will be promoted to opener in the second one-day cricket international against South Africa tomorrow, provided he is fit.
Watling has a minor hip strain and though he came through today's training session without too many problems, coach Mike Hesson is adopting a cautious approach ahead of the match in Kimberley (starting at 1.30am NZT).
"He got through training OK today, but he is a bit of a worry for us because obviously he's been in very good form," Hesson said of Watling, whose last four scores on tour have been 42, 63, 63 and 45.
If he is passed fit, Watling, who batted at No 3 for his 45 in the one-wicket win at Paarl on Sunday, will open the innings with Martin Guptill, Hesson said. Rob Nicol, who ran Guptill out then nicked out for four in the first match, will be dropped with Auckland batsman Colin Munro going into the middle order for his ODI debut.
Otherwise, there will be no changes to the team which took a surprising 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
And you certainly cannot accuse the New Zealanders of letting their success in the first match go to their heads.
Wins against South Africa in any form are rare but this under-fire New Zealand team, so humiliated in the two tests, have an opportunity to achieve a first in Kimberley - a one-day series victory in the Republic.
Sunday morning's dramatic win in Paarl has set up that opportunity, with victory required in either Kimberley or the potential decider in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
That task is tough, even with the hosts missing regular batsmen such as Jacques Kallis, arguably the best batsman of his generation, left-hander JP Duminy (both rested) and now their world class captain AB de Villiers, who is suspended for the final two matches after overseeing a disgracefully slow over rate in Paarl.
New Zealand allrounder Nathan McCullum, whose late cameo with the bat in the first match helped set up an unlikely win, certainly knows the tourists must be better in all three facets of the game if they are to repeat their success.
Despite outfielding South Africa, McCullum acknowledged they still dropped two catches, while the top six needed to score more runs - they left it to James Franklin and the bowling allrounders to do the job in Paarl - and while the bowlers were generally impressive, "there were a couple of instances where let it slip for a bit".
"We can improve across the board," McCullum said. "We've just got to keep going about our business and work hard.
"It was good to come out of the game the other day with the win, we obviously didn't play to our full potential but we managed to fight hard and scrape through with the win, which is pleasing to be able to do. But it's up to us to look and learn from the last game and hopefully get another win."
He used the popular "turn the corner" cliche to describe what he hoped the Paarl victory would mean for the New Zealanders, who are trying to drag themselves up the rankings in all three forms of the game after spiralling in the past two years, especially, when wins have been few and far between.
Rather ingloriously, New Zealand are these days ranked below Bangladesh in what used to their bread-and-butter format, 50-over cricket.
"Any time you get a win it certainly helps, especially after the tough time we've had over the last three or four weeks. We can hopefully move forward with some confidence and clarity that we can perform against these sort of teams," he said.
"Even though we won the last game, we have to be better, and it's up to us to make sure of that."
McCullum said the addition of several players who were not involved in the tests, such as livewire left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan, who took 4-20 on debut, senior bowler Kyle Mills, Jimmy Neesham, Grant Elliott and himself could "change the mood of things sometimes, when you have a number of guys come in who haven't experienced what had gone on during the test matches".
Before this series, New Zealand had won just two of 16 completed ODIs against South Africa in the Republic, at the 2003 World Cup in Johannesburg, thanks to Stephen Fleming's magnificent hundred, and in Port Elizabeth four years later.
Few would have thought doubling that number on this tour, given form and off-field controversy regarding the captaincy saga, possible. They have a chance tomorrow.