Cricket: Watling in doubt as NZ eye series win

By Cameron McMillan

Any advantage gained by the Black Caps following South African skipper AB de Villiers' two-game suspension could be offset by the absence of in-from batsmen BJ Watling for tomorrow morning's second one-day international.

Following an ordinary showing in the Twenty20 and test formats, in which they lost both series, the Black Caps are in the box seat in the three-match one-day series after taking out the opening game by one wicket in Paarl.

But their sudden momentum shift could be halted as quickly as it begun with Watling under an injury cloud.

Watling, who averaged 84.50 in ODIs last year including four 50s in six innings, continued his fine form in the test series before leading the way with 45 in the low-scoring win on Sunday. But he is doubt for tomorrow morning's second ODI in Kimberley with a minor hip strain.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson confirmed if fit, Watling will be promoted from number three to the top of the order, replacing Rob Nicol who scored four in the weekend. In reality, it will mean a small change from the last match when he faced the third ball of the match.

"[We're] worried a little about BJ Watling's fitness but, if he's fit, he will open the batting and Colin Munro will come in for his debut in the middle order," Hesson said.

"He got through training OK today but it was a bit of a worry for us because he's been in very good form."

As doubt hangs over Watling's availability, South Africa are at least certain they will be without one of their top order specialists with de Villiers suspended for the rest of the series for a slow over rate in the opening game.

Hesson said although he will be missed by the hosts, they will have plenty of players to step up in his place.

"He's a world class player. I think he's ranked in the top five one-day batsmen in the world. South Africa have, however, another two or three in the top six in the world and is why they are the top side in the world. I can't say we are upset by the fact AB de Villiers won't be there, though."

Tomorrow's match is just the second ODI to be played in Kimberley since 2008, with the Black Caps having previously played twice at the ground - once in a five wicket defeat to the hosts in 2000 before easing to a seven wicket win over Bangladesh at the 2003 World Cup.

Hesson is expecting the Kimberley pitch to make up for lost time by produce plenty of runs.

"It looks a very good pitch today, so much so they put the covers on pretty quickly because they were worried about it drying out. History suggests it's a relatively high scoring pitch. It's quite dry and there's a possibility of playing another spinner but I think most batsmen will be pretty pleased to be confronted with that compared to the pitches at Cape Town.

"It's a really good opportunity for a number of the top order who haven't had a great tour to stand up and leave the tour on a great note."

The second ODI begins at 1.30am NZT.

Possible lineups
New Zealand: 1 BJ Watling, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Brendon McCullum (capt/wk), 5 Grant Elliott, 6 James Franklin, 7 Colin Munro, 8 Jimmy Neesham, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan

South Africa: 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Colin Ingram, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 Farhaan Behardien, 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Ryan McLaren 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Rory Kleinveldt, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe


- nzherald.co.nz

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