Normally five test ODI series are a bit of a yawn, but in this case it actually seems to work. This is big; even though 40% of it is now being played in Hamilton.
South Africa is a very, very good team with no real weakness. They have probably the best ODI batsman going around, and easily the best ODI spin bowler. They are also the third #1 ranked ICC team in whatever format to tour here this summer.
They seem to have a good swagger about the squad. All those cute free-hitters, some more than decent fast bowling, a bit of a Rainbow Nation feel, and they have the advantage in knowing this is not a World Cup knock-out match.
After the most eagerly followed, and selection debated, T20 in New Zealand’s history, followed by an extraordinary wave of despair the hosts will be keen to show they can compete in this tour.
There was only one side in the one-off T20 hit-out, but when has anyone alleged that such a game sets the agenda for what is, in this day and age, a decent length tour?
New Zealand does need to protect its home ground recent ODI pedigree. At 26 wins out of the last 30 ODIs that is a record that deserves some serious respect.
The more familiar, orthodox, 50 over batting line-up will make a huge difference. And, in this year of the veteran, it will be really interesting to see how Brownlie and Broom will get on. Remember Brownlie’s shining international moment came in the same test that New Zealand was bowled out for 45.
The problem, as it has been all summer, is the papering over cracks in the all-rounder cupboard. Expect Kane Williamson to trundle down a few overs again tomorrow.
This shapes as a really tight series to pick; New Zealand has not suddenly become an awful side at home overnight, especially when you consider most of the main disappointments will not play in Hamilton.
And, please, can we put to bed the Damocles hanging dagger that New Zealand batsmen can’t play quality leg-spin? It’s getting embarrassing.