Buzzwords have a way of enforcing their own unique type of irony. Even Protea captain AB de Villiers mentioned how the “Protea Fire” was lacking in their opening ODI victory. The twenty-run margin served to flatter New Zealand as the Proteas laboured to a boring conclusion in Pretoria. As can be said for the atmosphere for much of this tour, the Proteas were low-key and lacked intensity. With Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw having combined for 185-runs for the second wicket, the Proteas just crossed 300 on an early season pitch for an above-par score. The innings was a job well done but the fielding was sloppy in defending it, Dale Steyn having three catches dropped alone. David Wiese had a poor debut, dropping chances and travelling for nine-an-over. Hope was evident in the likes of Imran Tahir and the energy of Steyn, but it seemed inevitable that the Proteas would be made to pay for their complacency should it carry over to the next encounter.
De Villiers’ decision to bat first at the toss in Potchefstroom flouted the history that stated the benefits of chasing at the ground. Losing the openers early, the South African innings never really got going as they lost wickets at regular intervals and struggled to inflate the run-rate. A fighting 70 from Farhaan Behardien and a cameo of 30 from Vernon Philander brought some degree of respectability to the South African total, yet an opening stand of 126 from Martin Guptill and Tom Latham took the game away. The Proteas will now have to lift themselves for one final encounter to secure the series and salvage some home pride against the Black Caps, but more dropped chances in the second match means the fielding must improve fast.
Martin Guptill crafted his fourth ODI century of the year to spearhead the successful chase of South Africa’s mediocre 207. Tom Latham scored 64 and formed the other part of New Zealand highest opening partnership against South Africa in ODI history. The bowlers had set the tone early on and Doug Bracewell collected career-best figures of 3/31 from his allotted ten overs. The Black Caps made it very difficult for the Proteas to score with clever changes of pace, cutters and subtle changes in length. As a result, they created pressure and subsequently, chances.
New Zealand have become something of an enigma when it comes to series comebacks. Once they have had a chance to assess conditions it seems they become better as the series progresses. The side lost the opening ODIs in both England and Zimbabwe before winnings the next matches and surging to series victories. They will be well aware that a repeat of the trend could be on the cards in Durban, having had a chance to get a feel for conditions in the earlier T20 clash.