Cricket: Black Caps aiming to knock over another No1

By David Leggat

AB de Villiers ranks second in ODI batting, averaging 53.93 with 24 centuries for the Proteas. Photo / AP
AB de Villiers ranks second in ODI batting, averaging 53.93 with 24 centuries for the Proteas. Photo / AP

First New Zealand topple the world's No1 ODI team - now they can do it again.

Confused? Don't be. Australia are cricket's top-ranked one-day team and New Zealand beat them 2-0 in the return Chappell-Hadlee series last weekend.

When South Africa arrive for the marquee event of the New Zealand summer they will have taken over the top spot, after beating Sri Lanka overnight at Centurion to complete a 5-0 sweep.

New Zealand are ranked third, so talk about a mouth-watering prospect in the first segment of the seven-week tour which starts at Eden Park with a solitary T20 game.

While New Zealand have a home ODI record to chirp about - 26 wins, four losses in their last 30 completed matches - South Africa are no slugs either. A win overnight gave them 11 successive victories at home.

They are a formidable ODI team, a blend of powerful batting and lively, varied bowling.

For both teams this tour will be about advancing their preparations for the Champions Trophy, which starts in England on June1.

South Africa's memories of their last game in New Zealand will be the sort you'd love to forget, but can't.

The World Cup semifinal at Eden Park, March 24, 2015 in case you'd forgotten, is the greatest ODI win in New Zealand's short-form history.

Grant Elliott's thumping six off the penultimate ball from pace kingpin Dale Steyn, the whoops of delight from one side; tears of despair from the other played out to the most sustained roar of approval from the packed house you could imagine.

No player took the outcome harder than South Africa's batting champion AB de Villiers. He was a shattered man.

De Villiers opted out of the test game for much of this year - his last three test innings were ducks against England last January - but he leads the one-day operation, averages 53.93 with 24 centuries and is ranked second in ODI cricket.

"Playing three different formats, with the schedule the way it is, all of a sudden felt like the world is on top of my shoulders," de Villiers said.

"And that's when I felt like I need to start prioritising what I want to achieve in my career, where I want to go and what I feel motivated about."

Throw in the vastly experienced and high class Hashim Amla (world No7), hard-headed test captain Faf du Plessis (No11), explosive lefthand wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock (No4), thunderous hitter David Miller and versatile JP Duminy, and South Africa have batting talent in abundance.

The bowling is a different story.

No Steyn, who broke a shoulder in Australia before Christmas; no Morne Morkel, also getting fully fit again, no Vernon Philander for the one-day leg of the tour, and South Africa are lean in one of their traditional areas of strength. But in Kagiso Rabada they have a young man who touches 150km/h, and has a mean streak to his bowling. Ageless legspinner Imran Tahir - 120 wickets at 22.92 - is a bouncy livewire.

There are high hopes for new faces Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius but if New Zealand are drilling deep into the South African squad, they may figure there is an opening if their batsmen are good enough to take advantage.

The overriding impression, though, is that this shapes as a ripping ODI contest between two teams in decent form.

South Africa

Limited-overs squad: AB de Villiers (c), Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi

Itinerary

Feb 14: T20 warm-up game, Eden Park, 2pm
Feb 17: Only T20 , Eden Park, 7pm
Feb 19: First ODI, Hamilton, 2pm
Feb 22: Second ODI, Christchurch, 11am
Feb 25: Third ODI, Wellington, 2pm
March 1: Fourth ODI, Napier, 2pm
March 4: Fifth ODI, Eden Park, 2pm
March 8-12: First test, Dunedin
March 16-20: Second test, Wellington
March 25-29: Third test, Hamilton

- NZ Herald

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