SOUTH Africa and New Zealand are in close competition as test and one day teams‚ formats in which the Proteas are two places ahead of the Black Caps in both sets of rankings.
But on the T20 cricket ladder‚ New Zealand are three rungs higher as the world’s No 1-ranked side.
That‚ theoretically‚ makes the home side favourites to win the oneoff T20 match between the nations at Eden Park in Auckland today.
Not that Kane Williamson was about to nitpick to that level.
“You don’t really think about rankings too much‚” Williamson said.
“They are the result of some good cricket‚ so it is nice to be ranked pretty highly in the format.
“But‚ in saying that‚ it’s all about what you turn up with on the day.
“We know, whenever we play South Africa, it’s a tough challenge and we have to be at our best,” he said.
The rankings at least add a veneer of relevance to today’s game‚ which will serve as a shop window for Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise owners to have a look at the talent available to buy at the player auction in Bangalore, India, on Monday.
So New Zealand’s Trent Boult‚ Colin Munro and Corey Anderson – and South Africa’s Farhaan Behardien and Imran Tahir – who in the T20 squads as well as in the IPL auction mix – will look to put in convincing performances if they crack the nod.
Once that is out of the way, the players can concentrate on the real thing‚ starting with the five one-day internationals that will serve as their most testing preparation for the Champions Trophy in England in June‚ followed by three tests.
Which‚ for Williamson‚ lent significance to winning the T20 today.
“It’s quite a big tour for us and you want to be hitting the ground firing‚” he said.
Rain has hampered both teams’ preparations and could endanger the match itself‚ but that did not bother Williamson unduly.
“We’ve been in camp a wee while and I think every team in the world has been playing a huge amount of cricket‚” he said.
What did bother Williamson was South Africa‚ according to him “probably the most experienced side in world cricket”.
With six members of South Africa’s squad of 15 older than 30 and only three younger than 25‚ that is fair comment.
But it is how you win – and not how old you are that really matters.