Optimism remains that tonight's scheduled Twenty20 international between New Zealand and South Africa will go ahead at Eden Park, despite heavy overnight rain in Auckland.

The precipiation is set to subside by the 7pm start time but up to 20mm is forecast this afternoon. More than 36mm fell in the city yesterday.

When the Herald visited the ground at 11am the sand-based outfield did not feel sodden under foot. Staff were working tirelessly, including twin mowers cutting inside the 30m circle. The bowling run-up covers had been removed.

New Zealand Cricket issued a statement saying: "Covers off. Block and outfield in good shape. Ground draining well. Optimistic of play, weather-permitting."


Earlier this month, the second match of the Chappell-Hadlee one-day series against Australia was rained out in Napier.

Inclement weather is also forecast for the opening ODI against the Proteas on Sunday in Hamilton.

With the possible exception of the Eden Park drainage system, New Zealand's middle order of Colin Munro, Corey Anderson and Tom Bruce will be the aspect of tonight's match under the most scrutiny.

Ross Taylor's disappointment at again missing T20 selection raised the debate whether the incumbent trio are best suited to the job at Nos3, 4 and 5.

Each had a moment of glory against Bangladesh. Munro made his maiden T20 international century, 101 off 54 balls, to secure the second match at Mt Maunganui; Bruce also raced to 59 not out from 39 balls in that innings; and Anderson hit 94 from 41 balls to dominate the third match at the same venue.

However, South Africa should put them under more pressure - if the weather clears.

"It's naturally disappointing for Ross," captain Kane Williamson said. "The T20 side has been playing some good cricket. We've got the one-off game, then we join up with the one-day team, and he [Taylor] is certainly a big part of that but the focus is on our cricket right now and the team we have."

The essence of batting in the shortest format is how the resource of 120 balls is used. There's not much between the quartet in T20 career strike rate: Bruce (153 from 21 matches) leads Munro (144 in 132 matches), Anderson (138 in 84 matches) and Taylor (135 from 224).

Despite the "he said-they said" debate between Taylor and selectors Mike Hesson and Gavin Larsen about the communication surrounding his axing, his case remains strong. The problem is the scarcity of matches in the format. New Zealand might not don the beige and black strip again until next summer.

Since Taylor's recovery from eye surgery, he has scored 40 or more in six of his eight innings across all formats. That amounts to 463 runs at an average of 66.14.

Neither Munro, Anderson nor Bruce has been as consistent as Taylor with the bat since Christmas but they mount a case for being better outfielders. Taylor's skill as a slip assumes less importance in T20s outside the opening overs.

The relevance of T20 internationals has also become moot. Losses are an ice cream headache compared to the hangover which can ensue after test defeats.

New Zealand might be ranked No1 in the format, but the honour holds less weight than the test or ODI accolade.

The format has morphed into an avenue where the selectors can afford to develop players such as Bruce and 20-year-old opener Glenn Phillips.