South-Africa-v-New-Zealand,-1st-T20I-preview

South Africa and New Zealand clash in the first of the two-Twenty20 International (T20I) series at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday. New Zealand arrive at the venue after a successful tour of Zimbabwe that saw them clinch the One-Day International (ODI) series 2-1, and win the one-off Twenty20 International (T20I) in grand style by a margin of 80 runs. The top two sides share a history of competitiveness especially in the limited-overs, and the fans can expect a high-octane clash between the two teams, especially with both teams having quality fast bowlers in their ranks and the pitches offering good pace and bounce. READ: New Zealand will miss Ross Taylor sorely on South Africa tour 2015

The Black Caps were dealt with a major blow even before the start of the series when Ross Taylor was ruled out due to a groin injury, which he sustained during a practice session before the start of the third ODI against Zimbabwe. The prolific batsman was forced to miss out on remainder of the Zimbabwe tour as well, and is currently undergoing treatment back home for the same. Taylor’s absence will be major for the visitors due to the loss in the depth of its batting order, which is already devoid of an explosive opener and an inspirational captain in the form of Brendon McCullum, especially when they face the challenge of the South African bowling attack.

In the bowling department, the pace duo of Adam Milne and Mitchell McClenaghan will play an important role. While the former is capable of some serious pace, his fitness has been an issue of late. McClenaghan, on the other hand, was in good nick in Zimbabwe, although he has a reputation of being unpredictable. Matt Henry, who blossomed as a lethal pacer around the ICC World Cup 2015, will also be an important card for skipper Kane Williamson. Doug Bracewell, who will be playing his first limited-overs fixture in over two years, might see himself fighting for a place with Ben Wheeler for the fourth pacer. Ish Sodhi will likely be retained as the spinner due to Mitchell Santner’s withdrawal from the tour earlier during the Zimbabwe tour.

While South African T20I skipper Faf du Plessis will likely open the bowling with the destructive duo of Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott, with David Wiese likely to follow. They will, however, miss the services of Dale Steyn in the two T20Is, who will join their ranks in the ODIs. There is plenty of support from the spin department in the form of JP Duminy, Eddie Leie and Aaron Phangiso. The one edge that the Proteas will have, however, will be that of the AB de Villiers factor, who can single-handedly tear the opposition apart, something which McCullum could have done for his side.

The past does play a major role when it comes to contests between the Proteas and the Black Caps. While the hosts will burn with the desire to avenge their narrow semi-final loss to the same opponents, New Zealand will have painful memories of their previous visit to the Southern African nation, when they lost all the Tests by an innings. Coach Mike Hesson will have a point to prove, even without McCullum and Taylor.

Time: 18:00 Local, 16:00 GMT, 21:30 IST.

Squads:

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Eddie Leie, David Miller, Rilee Rossouw, Morne van Wyk (wk), David Wiese, Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Phangiso, Morne Morkel.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Doug Bracewell, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, James Neesham, Luke Ronchi (wk), Ish Sodhi, Ben Wheeler, George Worker.

(Amit Banerjee, a reporter at CricketCountry, takes keen interest in photography, travelling, technology, automobiles, food and, of course, cricket. He can be followed on Twitter via his handle @akb287)