It is great to be back in South Africa preparing to take on the Proteas after a positive tour of Zimbabwe. There is good interest here in Durban as we get ready to play South Africa in two T20s and three One Day Internationals to complete our tour of Africa.
It has (of course) brought up the last time that we faced South Africa in that magical game of the semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup at Eden Park. If this series can live up to half of the quality of that night then we are in for a fine finish to the tour. Supersport has ads playing on loop over here that have a distressed South African fan waking up to nightmares from that World Cup game with the closing tagline…“It is time to put this one to bed”. So we certainly know the angle they are taking on the series.
Both teams are fiercely competitive, and will give it everything to win, but there is also a huge amount of mutual respect between them, which endears to a series played in the right spirit. There is a unique sporting rivalry and camaraderie between South Africa and New Zealand and we are looking forward to the challenge of taking them on at home at Kingsmead.
At the end of our time in Harare, it was a really nice feeling in the changing room to look around and see the smiles on the guys’ faces after putting in a complete performance to finish the tour. It's important for young guys to experience that early on in their international careers to help them understand our standards moving forward.
After we lost the first ODI by seven wickets, it was a good test for our new look side to respond in a short time and they did that very well. Zimbabwe is not an easy place to come and get a result. They are an underestimated opposition and the pitches are very different to what we experienced in England and are used to back home. So we had to adjust quickly and the improvement of the inexperienced bowling attack from the first ODI to the third was very pleasing.
There were a number of highlights throughout the series. We only lost 10 wickets as a batting line up in the three ODIs which was a great performance. In the first game, Kane Williamson (97) and Ross Taylor (112*) batted superbly to get us over 300. Rosco brought up his 15th ODI century and his 27th in total to draw level with Nathan Astle’s record of centuries (27) made for New Zealand in all forms. Since making his debut for New Zealand in 2006, Ross has been a quality performer for the BLACKCAPS and he was unfortunate to suffer an injury to end his Zimbabwe tour. We wish him all the best in his recovery.
The performance of Martin Guptill (116*) and Tom Latham (110*) in the second ODI was just great to watch. Gup reached a number of milestones becoming the 10th New Zealander to reach 4000 ODI runs and the fastest by some distance (112 innings) and perhaps more significantly the fourth to go past 1000 ODI runs in a calendar year. That is some achievement and notably three from this side Kane, Ross and now Martin from 2015 have joined Roger Twose who achieved that feat in 2000.
Meanwhile, and no less significantly, Tom Latham brought up his maiden ODI ton for the BLACKCAPS. Tommy has been an everywhere man for us in recent time and hasn’t always got on the park so it was special to see him reach that milestone. It was just reward for an ultimate team man. Kane is developing all the time as a leader and to claim another man of the series award speaks volumes of his quality as a world class batsman. He scored 97 and 90 and always puts the team position and what’s required ahead of his own personal goals.
Our bowling unit got back to where we need to be to be competitive in international cricket. Mitchell McClenaghan was a catalyst in that turn around. Mitch is a big man who is at his best when he charges in and intimidates the opposition. He did that perfectly in the second ODI and set the tone for our attack. It is important for every member of the team to understand their role and Mitch has real clarity of what we want from him. Other notable performances came from Ish Sodhi who made his debut for the BLACKCAPS and on his second match claimed three wickets in a promising spell of leg spin bowling.
Moving onto the T20, it was the sort of complete performance we wanted to finish on. After making a nervous start, George Worker (63 from 38 balls) went on to make a memorable debut and deservedly won the Man of the Match award. George, who was a late call up for this tour for Mitch Santner, has fitted into the BLACKCAPS environment really well and we were all thrilled to see him play with that sort of freedom to deliver a special knock. All of our batsmen wasted little time in scoring freely and to post 198-5 was always going to be hard to chase down.
The bowling effort ensured that the total was never really under threat and it was pleasing to see Adam Milne running in, pain free. Milney has endured a frustrating period of injury and put in a lot of work to get back to this level. His pace is a real weapon that adds another dimension to our bowling attack and we look forward to seeing him in the coming weeks on pitches that will be slightly more conducive to pace bowling.
We know that South Africa will be another step up and that we will have to be at our very best to claim a series win. I know the guys who were involved in the ODI series win here in 2013 – the first ever by the BLACKCAPS of any kind – were very proud of that achievement and the goal is to replicate that.
Finally, on behalf of the BLACKCAPS thanks so much for all of your support and messages from back home. It means a huge amount to the guys to know that our fans are right behind us and up in the middle of the night as we look to deliver performances that will make you proud to support the BLACKCAPS.