South Africans keen to play one-dayers in NZ

New Zealand's next home international could be played as early as October, as NZ Cricket considers a request by South Africa to play a one-day international series to prepare for the World Cup.

NZC chief executive David White was tight-lipped about the prospect yesterday but confirmed he was "talking to a number of countries" about playing here next season. The one-year countdown to the World Cup began yesterday and teams are very keen to experience New Zealand conditions in competitive ODIs before the co-hosted tournament on both sides of the Tasman.

Internationals have rarely been played earlier than December in New Zealand, but October provides the only realistic window and is being seriously looked at by NZC, with Whangarei, Hamilton, Mt Maunganui and Nelson all seemingly in contention.

New Zealand are scheduled to play an away series against Pakistan, probably in Dubai, in November, then Sri Lanka are confirmed to play two tests and seven ODIs in New Zealand in December-January. Pakistan are another country to approach NZC, and will likely be accommodated with a short series in late January.

Playing South Africa in a three-match ODI series in October not only presents issues with weather and ground conditions, but also ground availability.

Rugby's NPC is played until late October, thereby ruling out multi-purpose grounds like Auckland's Eden Park, Napier's McLean Park and Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

It means Whangarei's Cobham Oval is a strong contender to host its second ODI, along with Hamilton's Seddon Park and even Mt Maunganui's Bay Oval - which hosted qualifying matches this summer - if it can be rubber stamped as an ODI venue by the International Cricket Council.

Nelson's Saxton Oval, which successfully hosted its first ODI against West Indies last month and is one of seven New Zealand World Cup venues, will also be high on the list given its largely settled weather and the need for another test run before the tournament.

The current test against India is New Zealand's last home international of the summer, before they depart next month for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, then a full tour of West Indies from May till July.

There are no more confirmed international commitments till the Pakistan series in November.

New Zealand's T20 squad of 15 will be announced tomorrow, with the main point of interest around who replaces the errant Jesse Ryder at the top of the order.

Ryder is almost certain to be omitted after he was dropped from the test squad for his pre-match night out with Doug Bracewell in Auckland amid continuing issues with alcohol.

Kane Williamson, despite being omitted from the T20 side to play West Indies, showed his all-round ability in the shortest format for Northern Districts in the domestic playoffs, while team-mate Anton Devcich offers a left-handed option at the top of the order, bowls handy left-arm spin and is a brilliant fielder. Fairfax NZ

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