New Zealand vs South Africa: Can hosts breakaway from mid-table muddle?

New Zealand (L) and South Africa (R) © Getty Images

With England winning their first match of the World Cup 2022, four teams are now stuck at four points. Among them, two lost their last game – India and New Zealand, while West Indies have been at the wrong end of the results in their last two matches after winning the first two.

The hosts would want to break away from this mid-table clutter and join their opponents with six points, even as South Africa will be looking to make it four-in-four to distance themselves from India, New Zealand, and West Indies.

New Zealand had a no-show in their last match against the mighty Australian side and South Africa got home in a thriller against the defending champions. So, come Thursday (March 17), the Rainbow Nation will be the in form and more confident side to take the field at Seddon Park in Hamilton.

What’s at stake

Tournament play

The White Ferns haven’t really entered must-win territory, but having suffered a big defeat against Australia in Wellington on Sunday, they will be looking to get the better of South Africa to stay out of danger in their home World Cup.

Let’s be honest, all teams can afford to have a slip-up against Australia in this tournament. If they can limit the damages from the margin of defeat against the number one side to the minimum, it will be about showing up on other days. But New Zealand won’t be happy with the way they went down against Australia without a fight.

They were in the game during their bowling efforts, but once Ashleigh Gardner took them apart at the back end, they never recovered and were bundled out for 128 to suffer a 141-run loss.

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Failing to fire as a collective

It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly is the issue with New Zealand, one of their wins came in a chase in a rain-truncated match, while they stuttered in a close chase against West Indies in the World Cup opener. The White Ferns comfortably won the India match and the Australia encounter can be counted as an aberration going in to the South Africa game.

Sophie Devine has scored 163 runs from four matches. She also made a century, while others from their top four – Suzie Bates,  Amy Satterthwaite, and Amelia Kerr – have one fifty each. Lea Tahuhu is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament as of now. So it wasn’t down to a lack of individual performances from their big players. It’s just that they haven’t been able to collectively fire yet.

Their support acts, who had a great series against India at home – Maddy Green with the bat (averages 13.00 after 4 innings) and Jess Ker with the ball (averages 47.00 from 4 innings) – have struggled. So, it’s once again up to the three ‘wise heads’, Amelia, and their premier fast bowler, to lead the side out of the misery that comes with the loss against their ‘Trans- Tasman’ rivals.

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South Africa’s batting woes

Wins can’t paper over South Africa’s batting woes. Laura Wolvaardt has been their best batter over recent years and that trend has continued so far in the World Cup. The elegant right-hander has scored 193 runs from three innings at an average of 64.33, while striking at 79.09. Only skipper Sune Luus has amassed over 100 runs in the competition, but her strike rate is only 62.43.

Veteran Mignon du Preez is in the middle of a terrible tournament, with only 26 runs to her name from three matches. But compared to the New Zealand side, Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, and Trisha Chetty have made some handy contributions to make sure that they had some runs on the board for their incredible bowling unit to defend.

However, that won’t be enough for them in Hamilton, for Seddon Park has always provided good batting tracks – three of the highest totals in the tournament so far have come there. So, the big-hitting Lizelle Lee must come good for South Africa to allow other batters to bat at their desired pace.

Supreme pace attack

Three wins and three player of the match awards for three different pacers. Even before the tournament started, South Africa’s pace bowling unit was termed as the best in the competition. In the last outing against England, Kapp took her first five-wicket haul in ODIs and walked away with the best player prize for her all-round efforts.

It was Shabnim Ismail who stopped Pakistan in the final over, with figures of 3 for 41 in the second game. And they started off with Ayabonga Khaka’s 4 for 32, which proved to be too good for Bangladesh. Even their backup pacer Masabata Klaas has been good with five wickets to her name.

If you are looking for holes, South Africa haven’t selected a specialist spinner in any of the three XIs and their allrounders Luus and Tryon haven’t been able to pick up a single wicket between them.

Marizanne Kapp took her career-best figures of 5-45 against England © Getty Images

What they said

“If I come back in to bowl, it could potentially change the makeup of the team. But I think the great thing about this unit that we’ve seen is we’ve got players that can step up and do different jobs. We’ve seen it with the way Frankie (Frances Mackay) stepped up with the new ball. We’ve seen Hannah Rowe with the new ball, obviously got Lea (Lea Tahuhu), whose been able to adapt. So, it’s certainly I think a strength moving forward in this group.”

Sophie Devine on being asked about her recovery from the quad strain that restricted her bowling
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“I think she’s also well aware of that and at the end of the day the plan is for her to bowl where she can. The seamers have been doing such a good job and everyone that’s been given the opportunity with the ball, has been doing such a great job that she wasn’t even needed to bowl in the previous game. So definitely, going forward, when there’s an opportunity given – it’s one of those that we will take.”

Hilton Moreeng, South Africa’s coach, on Sune Luus’ reluctance to bring herself into the bowling attack more often

Players to watch out for

Lea Tahahu: Arguably one of the quickest bowlers in the world, Tahuhu is the leading wicket-taker in the tournament so far, with nine wickets to her name at an average of 16. 22 and an economy rate of 4.86. She has picked up three wickets in three matches – against West Indies, India, and Australia – and was instrumental in New Zealand’s win over India. With South Africa’s middle-order batting troubles, the hosts will be looking towards their strike bowler once again to show them the way.

Mignon du Preez: Mignon du Preez has been around for very long and is one of the most experienced players in the world. She will be playing her 150th ODI on Thursday. The 32-year-old du Preez will become just the fourth player in the world to achieve this feat and South Africa will turn to their senior pro to stem the rut in the middle order, even though she had a tournament to forget so far with the bat.

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 16 matches, New Zealand 11 – 5 South Africa

Amy Satterthwaite has scored 421 runs – the most against South Africa by a New Zealander – at an average of 60.14 and a strike rate of 86.98 from nine matches. She has also picked up 11 wickets – the joint-most – at an average of 15.72 from these matches.

No South African batter has scored a hundred against New Zealand in ODIs. Lizelle Lee was unfortunately dismissed on 99 in the first ODI during their 2020 tour and Laura Wolvaardt remained unbeaten on 91.

Predicted XI:

New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Amelia Kerr, Amy Satterthwaite, Maddy Green, Frances Mackay, Katey Martin (wk), Hayley Jensen, Lea Tahuhu, Jess Kerr, Hannah Rowe

South Africa: Lizelle Lee, Laura Wolvaardt, Lara Goodall, Sune Luus (c), Mignon du Preez, Marizanne Kapp, Chloe Tryon, Trisha Chetty (wk), Shabnim Ismail, Masabata Klaas, Ayabonga Khaka