All eyes on AB de Villiers as South Africa take on New Zealand in the 1st T20I
South Africa are bolstered by the return of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla while New Zealand continue to be without the services of Brendon McCullum and Corey Anderson as the teams are set to take on each other for the first time since their epic contest in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup.
World Cup finalists New Zealand will kick-off their tour of South Africa on Friday with the first of the two T20 internationals to be held at Kingsmead, Durban. The teams played out one of the most exciting ODI matches in recent times in the semi-finals of the quadrennial event and will do battle once again in three one-dayers, but after two matches in the shortest format of the game.
With a little over six months to go before the start of the ICC World T20 next year, both sides are set to try out some new faces but will be looking to build up some momentum ahead of the tournament.
Form guide & team news
Both teams head into the contest on the back of comfortable victories in the format against weaker opposition. While New Zealand won comfortably against Zimbabwe in their only T20 match of their tour to the African nation, South Africa were equally impressive winning the two T20’s in Bangladesh with a relatively new side.
Before their tour to Bangladesh, The Proteas played West Indies at home in three T20’s at the beginning of 2015. After winning the Test series comfortably, the hosts were expected to steamroll Gayle & Co but received a rude shock as they lost the three-match series 2-1. Scores of 165 and 231 were chased down by the visitors in the first two matches before they got their act together in the third match.
So the South Africans have won their last three T20’s and will be bolstered by the return of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla who missed the matches against Bangladesh. With skipper Faf du Plessis confirming that De Villiers would open the batting and keep wicket in the format, Morne van Wyk, who scored a century in his last T20 appearances, is likely to miss out.
JP Duminy, who is on paternity leave, will miss the series and the Proteas will be hoping that David Wiese, who turned out for RCB in the IPL, can shine in the all-rounder’s role. They also have high hopes for fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who will be keen to forget the hammering he received at the hands of Gayle last time out he played at home.
The victory against Zimbabwe would have no doubt boosted the Kiwis confidence when it comes to the T20 format. Two wins in their last five matches don't make for pretty reading and they will have their work cut out against the hosts.
The Black Caps two most destructive players in the format, Brendon McCullum and Corey Anderson is missing yet again. The regular skipper’s absence has opened the door for George Walker who is likely to bat at No 3 while Grant Elliot might bat higher up the order as well.
The visitors though will undoubtedly be banking on stand-in captain Kane Williamson, who has an impressive record against the Proteas. He has played four T20s against South Africa, scoring 109 runs at 36.33, which is higher than his overall average of 28.72. What boosts the visitors confidence more is that fact that Williamson scored a career-best 145 in his last ODI outing in South Africa gainst the hosts.
Pitch and conditions
The weather forecast for the day is a clear, mild one with no rain. The international cricket season in South Africa usually starts after spring, and the unfamiliarity could give way to interesting conditions.
Durban, geographically, should be the least affected however and a green top is expected for today’s contest.
Probable starting XIs
South Africa: 1 AB de Villiers (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 Rilee Rossouw, 5 David Miller, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 David Wiese, 8 Kyle Abbott, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Aaron Phangiso
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Kane Williamson (capt), 3 George Worker, 4 Grant Elliot, 5 Luke Ronchi (wk), 6 Colin Munro, 7 James Neesham, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Doug Bracewell, 10 Adam Milne, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan