In-form Fleming muddies SA plans
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In-form Fleming muddies SA plans

South Africa have marked New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming as the single most influential figure on the outcome of the third one-dayer on Friday.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2004 12:56 IST

South Africa have marked New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming as the single most influential figure on the outcome of the third one-day international on Friday.

With the six-match series locked at 1-1, the tourists know they must unearth a weakness in Fleming's game if they are to get a result that underlines their much higher world ranking.

"He's held them together the last couple of games, certainly it's an issue for us to try and do something," said South African all-rounder Lance Klusener.

Fleming's influence on the series was clear after his masterful 108 when New Zealand levelled the series in Christchurch on Tuesday, and his astute bowling changes kept his side in the hunt when South Africa sneaked home with two balls to spare in the opening match.

While South Africa captain Graeme Smith has put together back-to-back half centuries, the New Zealand captain in his last three innings against South Africa has twice scored match-winning centuries and Klusener admitted it was starting to become a headache.

"He certainly had a good run against us and we're going to have to think long and hard and decide what we're going to do. He's batting superbly," he said.

"We've seen enough of him. I'm sure we can come up with something. If we can nick him out early it might change a few things in the way we play it."

But whether the day-night fixture gets underway remained in the balance, with pitch preparations delayed by fierce, unseasonal storms which caused havoc in the region at the start of the week and further rain forecast for early Friday.

The pitch was flooded after rain seeped under the covers on Monday, and is unlikely to be as friendly as that used for the 600-run thriller against Pakistan last month.

Klusener has found the New Zealand weather and pitch conditions hard to adjust to and has yet to fire on tour.

"Suddenly coming here in terms of wickets it's a lot slower, so it'll take a week or two to get used to it," he said.

Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock, who remains wicketless in his bid for five more wickets to reach 300 career scalps, are also looking for form and if they all hit their straps at the same time it would spell trouble for New Zealand.

New Zealand on the other hand need support for Fleming, particularly from seasoned players Craig McMillan and Chris Cairns as well as international youngsters Michael Papps and Hamish Marshall, who have lacked consistency.

Coach John Bracewell was anxious not to talk Fleming up too much but continued to marvel at his work ethic.

"I'm impressed with the way he works on his game and trying to continually evolve his game and take it a step forward," he said of the player rated one of the most astute captains in the game.

Bracewell said the experiment to elevate Brendon McCullum to No. 3 in Christchurch might be repeated here, depending on how the early overs went.

McCullum was dismissed for two on Tuesday trying to push the scoring rate.

"It's really about making Hamish Marshall and Michael Papps more comfortable in the environment by splitting them," Bracewell said.

He also hinted at a bowling change, with key paceman Daryl Tuffey possibly resting a knee problem and Michael Mason poised to come in.

New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Michael Papps, Hamish Marshall, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills, Daryl Tuffey, Michael Mason.

South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Boeta Dippenaar, Jacques Rudolph, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel, Nicky Boje, Robin Peterson, Albie Morkel, Ashwell Prince.

First Published: Feb 19, 2004 12:54 IST