With the ghosts of the 2011 World Cup quarter-final nearly exorcised, JP Duminy has described South Africa's position as "comfortable", ahead of what could be the series-deciding ODI in Napier. South Africa won the preceding three-match Twenty20 series, pulling off a spectacular win in the third game in Auckland, and hold a 1-0 lead in the ODI rubber.
The two previous wins on tour have been wrested from difficult, high pressure situations, situations in which South Africa have historically shown a tendency to crumble. On this trip, so far, they have proved themselves capable of overcoming. "There were a few nervy moments but we got through it, which is a good thing," Duminy said of the first ODI. "The situation called for a bit of pressure to be absorbed and [for us to] express ourselves at the end, which we did nicely."
After keeping New Zealand to 253 for 9, South Africa stumbled to 35 for 3, needing cool heads and a partnership to return to solid ground. Duminy subsequently shared in a 90-run stand with AB de Villiers, to put the team in a winning position.
He credited de Villiers with seeing him through the difficulties at the crease, with swing in the air and New Zealand gearing up for their usual scrap. "If it wasn't for AB, I probably would have thrown it away," Duminy said.
Duminy's 46 came off 74 balls and he looked far from the confident player who had dictated proceedings during the Twenty20s. Instead of middling the ball, he found the edge more often but survived only to offer Rob Nicol a return-catch off the leading edge just short of a fighting half-century. "It's a bit difficult to explain what happened," Duminy said. "My preparations going into the first ODI were pretty good. I was hitting the ball nicely."
His tentative approach in Wellington, he said, was a result of circumstances rather than uneasiness. "The situation was different [from the Twenty20], I had a bit more freedom to play my natural game in the Twenty20," Duminy said. "I knew I just had to knuckle down and bat time, and if I got through that initial period, we'd be okay."
Duminy hopes for a more authoritative stint at the crease in Napier, which has been talked off as a pitch packed with runs. "I've heard it's a good batting track, so we'll have to put a solid total on the board if we bat first, and chase it down well if we bat second," he said.
What he doesn't know is where he will feature in the batting order. South Africa have stuck to rotating their No. 4 batsman, using de Villiers, Duminy and Faf du Plessis in the role. So far, all three have thrived there and Duminy appears to be taking steps to make it his own, but understands there is no guarantee he will continue to bat there. "I am enjoying the position. I prefer to bat at No. 4 but I've been batting No. 5 for most of my ODI career," he said. "If the opportunity arises more in the future, hopefully I can grab it with both hands."
Despite the changing nature of the South Africa line-up, Duminy said the team is settling into a good rhythm and want to close out the series on Wednesday. "We've got a bit of momentum behind us now, so hopefully we can knock the series off in the next game," he said.
There may not be much of a crowd to witness the match, certainly not as many as there were during the Twenty20, but Duminy said the low-key atmosphere was not an issue for South Africa. "We create our own intensity out there," he said. "There's a bit of a better atmosphere if there are more people in the stadium, but we are professional enough to create our own atmosphere in the field and that's what we thrive on."