T20I series preview: SA v NZ
With a new captain for each side and a plethora of new caps strewn across both squads, South Africa and New Zealand have ground to gain in the T20I rankings.
This month's Twenty20 International series against New Zealand will bring fresh challenges for South Africa, particularly after a change in coach, and skipper – and the induction of four new caps.
An increasingly busy calendar has seen some topflight outfits make modifications at their helm, with the Proteas the latest to follow in the footsteps of a trendsetting England unit.
Russell Domingo has taken the reins from head coach Gary Kirsten for the international game's shortest format, and Faf du Plessis will captain the side in the absence of the rested AB de Villiers.
The uncapped quartet of Aaron Phangiso, Chris Morris, Quinton de Kock, Henry Davids, meanwhile, have been drafted in to compensate for the voids left by de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and other seasoned statesmen.
Domingo has pledged at least one game to each, but the makeup of his final XIs remains the balance, with the combination entrusted with the top of the knock particularly intriguing.
The Black Caps, however, have not been afforded such luxury.
An alleged fallout between coach Mike Hesson and Ross Taylor has left Brendon McCullum in charge of the T20I team as well as the ODI and Test XIs – potentially overbearing roles for a player already tasked as limited-overs wicketkeeper.
Injury to Adam Milne, Tim Southee and Mark Gillespie, too, has left the bowling resources depleted, while their Twenty20 ranking (eighth, three berths lower than South Africa) does not bode well.
McCullum, regardless, will hvae to work with the personnel at his disposal. Be they stopgap or long-term prospects, Corey Anderson, Colin Munro and company are in for a veritable of baptism of fire a long, long way away from home.
A three-match affair, in Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth, this series will offer an intriguing precursor to the tour's later fixtures: two Tests, and three ODIs.
Controversially, though, the third and final T20I has replaced the traditional Boxing Day Test, with consequent ticket sales relaying a poor move by Cricket South Africa.
<b>Key Men</b><br>It's all eyes on <b>Quinton de Kock</b> in the home cap. Beating Heino Kuhn, Thami Tsolekile and Dane Vilas to the wicketkeeper-batsman post, the pressure will be heavily squared on the youngster's shoulders.
Number one batsman, wicketkeeper and captain again, <b>Brendon McCullum</b> needs a big series amid a plethora of newbies. Not the cliche it often is, the need to 'lead from the front' is a must on this occasion.
<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2012: Third T20I: South Africa won by three runs in Auckland<br>2012: Second T20I: South Africa won by eight wickets in Hamilton<br>2012: First T20I: New Zealand won by six wickets in Wellington<br>2010: World Twenty20, Group D: South Africa won by 13 runs in Barbados<br>2009: World Twenty20, Group D: South Africa won by one run at Lord's
<b>Prediction</b><br>New caps all over the place, and three positions separating them in the ICC T20I rankings, but considerably more on the field. South Africa to take this easily, perhaps even three-nil. All the latest <a href='https://twitter.com/bet365' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket bets</b></a> here.
<b>Squads</b><br><i>South Africa:</i> Faf du Plessis (captain), Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, Justin Ontong, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
<i>New Zealand:</i> Brendon McCullum (captain), Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Peter Fulton, Colin Munro, Nathan McCullum, Corey Anderson, James Franklin, Jimmy Neesham, Derek de Boorder, Mitchell McClenaghan, Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult, Ronnie Hira, Michael Bates.
<b>Fixtures</b><br>First T20I: 21 December, Durban<br>Second T20I: 23 December, East London<br>Third T20I: 26 December, Port Elizabeth
West Indies coach Phil Simmons dismisses claims Odean Smith was ‘victimised’
CWI also rubbished the ‘mischievous’ allegations.
Brendan Taylor banned under the ICC Anti-Corruption Code and Anti-Doping Code
The ICC have handed down a suspension as expected.
The Ashes: Jofra Archer felt like he had let everyone down by missing series
The 26-year-old has been out for 10 months with a troublesome elbow injury.
Katherine Brunt: Captain Heather Knight led by example with massive Ashes ton
Knight’s hundred helped England avoid the follow-on but they trail Australia by 102 runs.
Women’s Ashes: Brilliant Heather Knight century keeps England in the fight in Test
Captain Knight scored more than half of England’s total to help them avoid the follow-on.
Rohit Sharma returns to lead India on white ball series against West Indies
Rohit Sharma has passed fit.
England prospect Tom Banton hopes improved glovework can boost his credentials
The big-hitting batter donned the gloves for England’s third Twenty20 against the West Indies.
England in the West Indies: Captain Eoin Morgan to miss remainder of series
The batter suffered a minor thigh injury ahead of the third of five T20 internationals.
The Hundred: Southern Brave to launch defence against Welsh Fire in August
Reigning women’s champions Oval Invincibles will take on Northern Superchargers in their opening match.
England in the West Indies: Phil Salt savours T20 debut despite defeat in Barbados
The 25-year-old was bowled for 57 from 24 balls in the country where he lived as a child.