The Proteas should prevail
South Africa thoroughly deserved their one-day series win against the Black Caps.
I felt all the way through that the South African combination was far stronger and I was a bit surprised that the Kiwis managed to take the series into a deciding fifth game in Auckland.
In a way this wasn't a bad thing. It gave the Proteas the feeling of playing in a knockout game. This match simulated the pressure that the South African side will face during the decisive phase of the Champions Trophy during the month of June in England.
They came through with flying colours in the last match, dominating New Zealand from ball one. AB de Villiers was quoted as saying that his team is ready for the Champions Trophy. I agree with him. In terms of preparation things are on track. This last series victory came on the back of convincing wins against Australia and Sri Lanka.
I thought De Villiers himself was excellent on this tour. He batted superbly and his captaincy was outstanding. The Proteas are fortunate to have two superb leaders in Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers at their disposal. The team has got used to both leadership styles and both captains bring the best out of their charges. They also lead from the front, which is another huge plus for the Proteas.
My only slight concern regarding the squad remains the seam bowling. On flat surfaces the seam attack can be inconsistent and at times expensive. When the surfaces change and offer something for the seam bowlers they do well. If the weather is fine in England leading up to the tournament in June the surfaces will be pretty flat so the quality and composition of the seam attack remains a work in progress.
The Proteas have won the Champions Trophy once before. As a result there is not the same pressure going into the event as there is for a World Cup. The group the Proteas find themselves in is the better of the two. They share the group with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The top two teams go through to the semifinal. If AB de Villiers and his men play to the best of their ability they should get through to the knockout phase comfortably.
Meanwhile, here in New Zealand it is on to the test matches. There is no question that New Zealand is concerned about their batting strength. They fear the South African pace attack. The talk here is all about flat pitches that will negate the fast bowlers and turn as the test matches progress.
The South African test side differs vastly from the one-day combination. It remains a settled side with only one position up for grabs. This is the third seamer spot. When Kyle Abbot left the fold Duane Olivier played the last test against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers. He performed pretty well in that game so he will be unlucky if he doesn't retain his spot.
Morne Morkel has joined the squad and by all accounts he is injury and pain free. He did play in a couple of one-day matches recently. Whether the selectors will risk him this week in the first test in Dunedin remains to be seen.
Like the one-day series the Proteas are strong favourites to win the test series. New Zealand depend too heavily on Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tim Southee, Trent Bolt and Neil Wagner. If they don't score the runs or take the wickets the Kiwis are under pressure. The Proteas have far more depth and a better balance under all conditions.
We can expect the same in the test matches as we saw during the one-day internationals. The Kiwis will scrap hard but in the end the Proteas should prevail without too much difficulty.