Black Caps 'need to rely on instincts' against SA
Bowling coach Shane Bond is calling on the New Zealand cricket team to use their instincts in the absence of any real knowledge about many of the South African players they'll come up against in the three-match Twenty20 series, starting in Durban on Saturday (NZT).
While there is very much a new look to the New Zealand squad, with five of the 15 players having been uncapped at international level, South Africa have also selected a radically different team to that which will play the two tests and three one-day internationals.
Captain Faf du Plessis and bowlers Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Robin Peterson are the only frontline test and one-day players in the squad, though New Zealand fans will recognise the likes of hard-hitting opener Richard Levi and left-armer Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who had some success in the shorter forms when the Africans toured these shores earlier this year.
Bond admitted they knew little about some of the South Africans, but they had taken the opportunity to pore over what footage they do have, and scan the SuperSport channels, to do as much scouting as possible.
"We get little bits of footage from the Champions League (which was held in South Africa) so there's a chance to sit down and have a look at some of the guys, but the footage isn't vast," he said.
"We're lucky we've got SuperSport, we've been able to flick through the seven channels and have a look at the range of (domestic) cricket games that are going on. It's given us a bit more insight.
"But for our guys, it's just about using our instincts on the field and getting a real quick feel and being able to adjust quickly. That's what Twenty20 is about, summing up the conditions quickly and the players you are playing against."
The hosts will no doubt have also been scrambling for footage of the likes of Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Derek de Boorder, Corey Anderson and Colin Munro, and Bond said in that sense there was an even playing field.
"Both of the sides probably don't know a lot about each other, so in terms of that element I wouldn't say a psychological advantage rests with either side. It's just going to be about who plays the best cricket."
He also felt the "even" nature of Twenty20 cricket meant other factors such as the gulf in rankings between the two teams would be irrelevant.
"It's not often teams win game after game after game in T20, because it only takes one player to have a good day.
"The rest of the tour is going to be a real challenge for us; the way South Africa played in the tests in Australia, we're going to have to play as well as we did in the second test in Sri Lanka if we're going to compete (but the Twenty20s provide) the perfect opportunity to put a young player under pressure and see how they stand up. You're not out there too long to make it really tough."
He said he "couldn't fault" the attitude of the new players and the team had taken some confidence from yesterday's 24-run warmup victory against South Africa A, particularly left-arm quick McClenaghan, who took 3-19.
"He was pretty nervous before the game, as you would be, being his first game for New Zealand, but he kept things nice and simple and bowled like he has at home, which is aggressively and fast.
"Yesterday will have given him a lot of confidence, there's competition within our squad and a one-day team hasn't been named so there are chances in this series for guys to put their hands up and perhaps get a chance to stay on at the back end of this tour."
There are concerns New Zealand lack depth in the spin department without Daniel Vettori, but Bond is backing Nathan McCullum, Ronnie Hira and Rob Nicol do to the job in the Twenty20s, a format which suited their bowling.
"So even though we miss Dan in terms of his experience and leadership, I still think the spin bowling department is a strength of ours on this tour. I'm pretty confident about the job they'll do."