Cricket: Good start vital for Black Caps

Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum (R) and coach Mike Hesson attend a press conference in Durban...
Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum (R) and coach Mike Hesson attend a press conference in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Anesh Debiky / Gallo Images/Getty Images)
New Zealand need to beware a giant pratfall when they start their South African tour against a national A team in Pietermaritzburg late tonight.

Things are going to be testing enough when the real contests begin, starting with the opening T20 in Durban on Saturday. Given the backdrop to the tour, there are plenty predicting all manner of indignities about to be foisted on Brendon McCullum's men.

Therefore it is critical they at least get off on the right note in their T20 kickoff against a team possessing one international player, Justin Ontong, and a handful of others pressing to enhance rising reputations.

From New Zealand's perspective, that's no bad thing either. There's little point in an easy romp ahead of the high hurdles around the corner.

The makeup of New Zealand's squad also begs a question.

It's all well and good promoting a trio of young middle-order hitters in Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson - all swing a solid, effective bat in the short game - not to mention have a fast-medium attack in which Doug Bracewell is the senior figure.

But once Ross Taylor withdrew, and Tim Southee, Dan Vettori and Jacob Oram were ruled out for various reasons, there must have been a case for getting an extra older head or two in the group. A case in point being Kyle Mills, who took five Canterbury wickets yesterday, or Kane Williamson for that matter. Not required, said the selectors.

Don't be surprised to see the XI chosen for tonight backing up again in the opening T20. That is the norm, to at least get them into work before the first big contest.

Bet on McCullum wanting to assert himself at the first chance.

Fair enough too. This is a daunting challenge, but he's always appealed as a player who likes to take on those sitting at the top table.

He has labelled the tour as "a really exciting time" for the newcomers.

"We're going to find out a lot about the new guys in the next little while," he said.

McCullum is over discussing who is not on tour, and preparing to work with what he has at his disposal.

"From a leadership point of view, we've got to find a way to use the resources we do have, rather than focus on what we don't have," he said.

NZ v South Africa A, Pietermaritzburg, midnight

New Zealand squad: (from) Brendon McCullum (c), Rob Nicol, Martin Guptill, Peter Fulton, James Franklin, Corey Anderson, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Nathan McCullum, Derek de Boorder, Ronnie Hira, Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan, Michael Bates.

South Africa A squad: Justin Ontong (c), Kyle Abbott, Craig Alexander, Davy Jacobs, Mangaliso Mosehle, Aaron Phangiso, Roelof van der Merwe, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas, Hardus Viljoen, David Wiese.

- David Leggat

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