The New Zealand cricket team is staring down the prospect of their first home one-day international series defeat since October 2014 as they prepare for the fourth match of their five-match series against South Africa in Hamilton on Wednesday.
A measure of recent Black Caps success is their seven consecutive series victories at home. The Proteas inflicted the last loss in the build-up to the World Cup. The same visitors are on the cusp of delivering another blow after winning by 159 runs last night in Wellington to establish a 2-1 lead.
After two close games, New Zealand's total of 112 in the third match was their lowest at home since getting dismissed for 73 by Sri Lanka in January 2007.
The innings was their worst ODI score against South Africa (previously 134 at Cape Town in December 1994) and trumped the biggest margin of defeat between the sides (143 runs at Auckland in March 1999).
Levelling and then winning the series looks daunting against the world No.1s, but New Zealand coach Mike Hesson insists they have options. They include the return of a fit Martin Guptill to open, and the recall of off-spinner Jeetan Patel as a means of taking the ball away from three left-handers - Quinton de Kock, Jean-Paul Duminy and David Miller - in South Africa's top six.
Guptill's recovery from hamstring injuries means the top of the batting order requires a rejig. Tom Latham seems a candidate for a spell with 35 runs from his last seven ODI innings, but that is complicated by his dual role as wicketkeeper and the fact he topped the New Zealand averages as recently as the ODI tour of India with 244 runs at 61 as a specialist batsman.
Alternatively, Dean Brownlie could retain his place of the back of 130 runs at 32.50 from his last four ODIs.
Hesson confirmed Luke Ronchi was the likely wicketkeeper for the next match, despite struggling with the bat in ODIs this season. He has collected 47 runs from five innings.
"We talked at the start of the series about giving both keepers an opportunity," Hesson said. "Tom's had the first three, Luke's likely to get an opportunity [in Hamilton]. We're delighted to have Martin back, which allows us to do that easier.
"There's no doubt Tom's struggled but he's come off a series in India where he was our best player but hasn't reached those heights at home."
"He's been unfortunate with some of the scores," captain Kane Williamson added. "Tom works hard like all of us to get more runs, and he's been unlucky finding fielders with some dismissals against a good attack."
Another selection option might be to retain the all-rounder and spin options by bringing Ronchi in at No.5 and replacing Neil Broom who has had scores of 2, 2 and 0 this series after stellar displays against Bangladesh and Australia.
"Depending on conditions, Kane [Williamson] is a sixth bowling option in certain conditions and Hamilton is probably one of those [after the turn extracted in the second ODI]. We want to make sure we're covered.
"Jeetan is very much in the frame. All our one-day spinners have done well for us this year."
Matt Henry drops out of the squad and will play for Canterbury against Wellington in the Plunket Shield match beginning today at the Basin Reserve.
The idea is he will remain as cover for Neil Wagner in the test squad. Wagner recently fractured the ring finger of his bowling hand, but returned to Otago club cricket yesterday.
"[Wagner] is highly likely to play in the tests [against South Africa] but with seam bowlers there is an attrition rate so we need options if something happens," Hesson said.
"His recovery has been as good as could be expected. Neil's done everything possible to be ready."