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Cricket: Five keys for the Black Caps to win the series

Some more Martin Guptill magic wouldn't go amiss at Eden Park on Saturday. Photo / Alan Gibson
Some more Martin Guptill magic wouldn't go amiss at Eden Park on Saturday. Photo / Alan Gibson

The cricketing summer is on the cusp of exceeding New Zealand fans' expectations after the Black Caps dethroned another one-day international world No.1 side last night.

The hosts' seven-wicket win over South Africa levelled the series 2-2 ahead of Saturday's decider at Eden Park.

The Proteas drop behind Australia in the ODI rankings, a side beaten 2-0 last month in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.

New Zealand rank third and are one victory from winning an eighth consecutive home ODI series. To do that, the team's wisest heads will collaborate on a plan which might revolve around the following points:

1. Ensure South Africa are six down by the 40th over.

New Zealand have achieved this in their three full-length ODI matches this series, winning two and losing one.

"That is a big KPI [key performance indicator] for us," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said.

"The next step is getting past that. AB [de Villiers] is such a good player he gives confidence to guys around him. We came up with how to get rid of [Quinton] de Kock using Jeetan [Patel] at the start. We'll come up with some ideas for AB, but it's not quite as easy as that."

"I know the guys are giving it everything [to remove de Villiers]," captain Kane Williamson said. "But he's super consistent and has the skill to go through tough periods, rotate the strike and cash in at the end. He's done it for years. It would be nice to get him out early... but I've said that a few times this series."

2. Play Imran Tahir with care.

The leg spinner took five for 24 from 3.5 overs in the T20, and looked unplayable. In the four ODIs he has taken four wickets at an average of 45.50, strike rate of 47 and economy rate of 5.87.

"They're respecting him more and playing him better," de Villiers said. "That sometimes happens if you have a match winner in your team - the opposition respect them. They took him on at the right time [at Hamilton].

"[However] the Eden Park wicket is a bit quicker and Immi likes to bowl on quicker wickets."

"We're bearing in mind that if we deny him wickets, he goes searching more and that creates scoring opportunities," Hesson said. "He's an outstanding bowler so it's about respecting what he offers, and picking up more runs off the others."

3. Improve the fielding and death bowling

New Zealand conceded 100 runs from the last eight overs in the fourth ODI, something which was drawn to Williamson's attention.

"I thought our fielding was poor upon reflection, and something we want a lot better going into the final match.

"There are some bowling work-ons, too. They got away from us... but when you have a special knock of 180 [from Martin Guptill], it pretty much goes all the way towards winning a game."

"Yesterday certainly wasn't our best [death bowling] performance," Hesson said. "But the way we closed it out in Christchurch and got back into the first game in Hamilton was exceptional. "When bowling to a guy like AB de Villiers, if you get it wrong, you get exposed."

4. Get greedy and ask Santa for some more Guptill magic.

Heading into the fourth ODI, Guptill's average opening in 12 ODI innings against South Africa was 21.90 with a strike rate of 61. Now he heads to Eden Park, a ground where he averages 66.81 from 14 innings with a strike rate of 88.

"That was as good as it gets in terms of quality ball striking on a tough surface against quality opposition... and the pressure of the match," Hesson said. "It would be hard to beat his [2015 World Cup] quarter-final double century, but that came close.

"His composure in the chase showed he was never satisfied."

5. Re-enact, or at least take confidence, from the World Cup semi-final.

No one, least of all the South Africans or New Zealanders, will forget Eden Park as the venue where Grant Elliott's six off the penultimate ball from Dale Steyn launched the Black Caps into their maiden World Cup final.

- NZ Herald

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