Hamilton pitch, not Guptill, could be SA’s biggest challenge

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

MARTIN Guptill? Bring him, even if it is in a match that could decide the one-day series between New Zealand and South Africa.

That game is at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Wednesday, and Guptill is set to return to the home side’s line-up after recovering from two hamstring injuries.

And that with South Africa leading the five-match series 2-1, and returning to the scene of their victory by four wickets with a ball to spare in the first match of the rubber.

But Kagiso Rabada was in no mood to pay Guptill too much respect on Tuesday.

“We’ve played against Martin Guptill before,” Rabada told reporters in Hamilton. “We know he can be destructive.

“He’s a quality player, and he’s proven that over the years.

“But we’ve got our plans and we never back down to anyone.”

With a laugh, Rabada thought it well to add: “Let’s hope he doesn’t score runs.”

Guptill, ranked fifth among batsmen in ODIs in June, is now No. 9.

He averages 42.52 and has a strike rate of 86.80 after 141 matches in the format.

But in 14 innings against South Africa those numbers drop to 22.07 and 64.93.

Against South Africa in New Zealand?

Even less: 20.33 and 61.33 in seven games.

So, Guptill might not be South Africa’s biggest challenge on Wednesday.

That could be the pitch, what with rain forecast for Tuesday.

Wet weather before the first ODI made that surface slower and stickier than it would normally be, and also encouraged seam movement.

That gave South Africa’s superior attack a key advantage, but it didn’t help either team’s batsmen.

Chris Morris, one of the more junior members of the attack who has now played 21 ODIs, took his opportunity well and with it a haul of 4/62.

Another allrounder, Andile Phehlukwayo, went wicketless at fewer than a run-a-ball, and scored a vital 29 not out to help AB de Villiers win the match.

Rabada, who has only 11 more ODI caps than Morris, claimed 2/31.

“We’ve got some guys who have been on the fringe for quite a while and also some nice raw talent that’s come in,” Rabada said. “It’s a new era that’s developing.

“We’re getting used to each other – we’ve got some nice spinning options and also some good allrounders.

“We’re in a good space, especially with this new crop of players coming in.

“We’ve got the luxury of so many allrounders and it gives balance to the team.”

Good, because the suggestion from New Zealand is that Rabada could be rested for Wednesday’s match.

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