No Aussies to Spoil the Party
It might appear spiteful to say success in the Twenty20 cricket format is the last refuge for sides unable to make it in Test or one-day cricket.
Yet there is good reason for saying this if you look at the rest of the cricket landscape.
First prize, sitting atop the Test ladder, is unavailable because Australia are so far ahead of the rest they seem out of reach.
Second prize, the World Cup 50-over-a-side competition, is also out of reach, with Australia having held it for 12 years.
The only area in which Ricky Ponting and company are not king of the castle is the 20-over-a-side game. They came to the inaugural world championship in SA a few months back, got themselves beaten -- by Zimbabwe among others -- and promptly wrote off this format of the game as a bit of a gimmick.
That is good news for the rest because It leaves one format open for success.
New Zealand quite fancy themselves as a 20-over side. Daniel Vettori said as much when he spoke to the media yesterday, ahead of the Pro20 game against SA at the Wanderers.
He pointed out that his side ended above the host nation in the world championship.
"We do take a little solace in our Twenty20 and our one-day international showings in the past couple of years," Vettori said.
"I think we're third in the world. It shows we are a good one-day side.
"We're still mis- sing a few players, but I think the guys who've come in realise this is a new campaign. They know their one-day game pretty well, and they've had a good dose of it in the past few years.
"We were here for the World Twenty20, so have a good feel for the wickets. We're a confident one-day side, and a confident Twenty20 side. We reached the semifinals of the World Twenty20 and SA didn't, so there's a step up for us. We've just got to turn the confidence in the squad into actual performance."
Vettori made an important point, reflecting a growing trend in the thinking about limited-overs cricket worldwide.
There has been a move towards using fast bowlers, whereas they used to be reserved for the Test arena. The view once was that taking the pace off the ball was better in the shorter versions of the game.
Now, however, the strategists have come to realise that getting wickets upfront is important no matter what length of game a team might be playing. To that end, New Zealand had bad news yesterday. Both their fast bowlers, Jacob Oram and Chris Martin, will be sitting out this game with injuries and viruses.
"We've realised that quality fast bowling and good spin bowling wins you games.
"The quality of wickets that you play on for Twenty20 and one-day games normally means that the batter takes over, and if you've got a guy bowling at 110 or 120, it probably doesn't allow you an ability to attack or even defend now," said Vettori.
"Having said that, we have Scott Styris, who's been effective for a long time. He's going to play a big role in the matches to come -- particularly in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, where wickets are generally slower."
SA's selectors joined the growing trend towards using fast bowlers this week by selecting Dale Steyn for his extra pace.