Stephen Fleming wary of South African strength

Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming believes his side will find South Africa a tough nut to crack when the two sides clash in a One-day series starting next week.

The New Zealanders touched down in Johannesburg Tuesday, to prepare for their three week tour which includes a five-match One-day international series.

The two teams will also meet in the first international 20-overs-a-side match to be played in South Africa at the Wanderers next Friday.

Fleming, who was in charge when New Zealand achieved their first series win against South Africa, a 5-1 thrashing in a One-day series in New Zealand last year, is expecting the South Africans to "come hard" at his team as they seek retribution for that defeat.

"I know we beat them heavily when they came to New Zealand last year, but that does not make us favourites for this series," said Fleming.

"You're never favourites when you come to South Africa, they are very tough nut to crack at home. By saying that though we are not playing down our own abilities."

The absence from the touring party of experienced all-rounder Chris Cairns caused great surprise in South Africa, but Fleming said he was satisfied his side had the resources to deal with Cairns' absence.

"It was a very tough winter for him and he now gets the opportunity to go and work on his form in the first class game at home," Fleming explained.

Nevertheless, the Black Caps will be able to call on fast bowler Shane Bond, who showed that he had regained both fitness and form on New Zealand's recent tour to Zimbabwe. On South Africa's quick and bouncy pitches he will form a key component of the New Zealand team's attack.

"There are not many players of Bond's quality around and he gives us a point for the attack. Together with Daniel Vettori he forms a world class combination. You will find our other bowlers are better, it also makes me a better captain and it makes us, as a team, a world class side," Fleming added.

New Zealand coach John Bracewell said he had been looking forward to touring South Africa for a long time.

"The hardness of the competition is something we in New Zealand enjoy," he added.

New Zealand play their first match against a South African 'A' side in Benoni, just east of Johannesburg on Friday. The first One-day international will be played in Bloemfontein on Sunday, October 23.

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