It's now or never for Kane Williamson and co. as South Africa eye series win    Getty Images
It’s now-or-never for Kane Williamson and co. as South Africa eye series win Getty Images

It all started in Hamilton, less than a fortnight back. After winning the one-off T20I, South Africa were eyeing a lead in the first of the five-ODI series at Seddon Park, Hamilton. New Zealand, on the other hand, were determined to get a move on from the T20I drubbing and make amends in the 50-over format. Rain continued to make its presence felt in New Zealand and pushed the start of play. Finally, a 34-over aside contest was possible, which eventually went down the wire. Proteas, however, prevailed in the last over to take a 1-0 lead.

The second ODI was another nerve-wrecking contest, but this time Black Caps ended on a winning note. Series score read 1-1. The third ODI was a forgettable affair for the hosts. They lost by 159 runs and the visitors walked away with a 2-1 lead.

Both sides again meet for the fourth ODI in Hamilton, instead of Napier, which, in all probability, will decide the significance of the last match at Auckland. South Africa will look to wrap up the series, whereas Kiwis will battle hard to prevent the finale from being labelled as ‘dead rubber’.

The scene of McLean Park, Napier when it hosted its' last encounter between New Zealand and Australia    Getty Images
The scene of McLean Park, Napier when it hosted its’ last encounter between New Zealand and Australia, earlier this month Getty Images

Napiers’ loss, Hamiltons’ gain

Hamilton was not the first choice for hosting the fourth ODI. Nonetheless, seeing the recent history of Napier’s McLean Park and how the venue’s last encounter was abandoned without a ball being bowled (due to wet outfields and poor conditions) forced New Zealand Cricket (NZC) to give another game to Seddon Park. It was the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy 2017’s second match that met with a delayed start due to rain. After rain kept away, it was the outfield that never dried to declare a complete washout.

Hopefully, Hamilton will act as a perfect host by not only giving the crowd a full game to cherish but also enabling a comeback for the hosts.

Numbers game

In the batting department, Quinton de Kock is in fine form. With three back-to-back fifties, he has 194 runs and will like to churn out a big innings this time around. AB de Villiers is not behind with 167 runs. He has soaked up pressure in crucial junctures and led his side to victories. Following him is his counterpart, Kane Williamson (151), with Ross Taylor (121) lying at the 4th spot for most runs.

Talking about the bowlers, Dwaine Pretorius and Trent Boult lead the pack with 5 wickets each. Following the duo are Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris, Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee with 4 scalps apiece. All the above mentioned names will look to move in same stead.

To add to the numbers, this is the first instance of the tourists being 2-1 up in a bilateral series versus Kiwis in their den. In the past, Kiwis were 2-1 up in 1998-99 (eventually losing by 2-3), whereas Proteas lost 1-5 when they toured in 2003-04. On their last two tours, visitors have won the series without dropping a game (in 2011-12 and 2014-15).

Overall, Proteas have won 3 out of 4 bilateral series in New Zealand, which makes them overwhelming favourites to seal another series here. Their head-to-head versus the opponents in the Kiwi land is also tied at 11-11. Hence, the ball is certainly in de Villiers’ side, as they are only a win away from pocketing another series Down Under.

Favourites?

Well, numbers do not lie and it favours the tourists at present. South Africa have the edge going into the fourth game. Nonetheless, Kiwis have not lost their last eight ODI series at home and had also staged a comeback in the second ODI. With Martin Guptill almost certain to play, they cannot be ruled out completely. However, they will have to start from scratch to go the distance against the numero uno side in ODI rankings.

Squads:

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Lockie Ferguson, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, James Neesham, Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Ross Taylor

South Africa: AB de Villiers (c), Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi

Time: 6:00 AM IST | 02.00 PM local | 01.00 GMT