There are no easy matches in a 10-team World Cup. But for South Africa who are one defeat away from a near-certain early exit, the New Zealand clash on Wednesday is as tough a contest as one can hope for.
The Proteas were provided a lifeline by inclement weather against the West Indies after slipping to 29-2 before registering their first win – against Afghanistan. After three straight defeats, the absence of another ‘L’ was good news.
However, the Proteas took their own time while chasing down 125 against the Afghans, taking nearly 30 overs to do so while their next opponents New Zealand reached a similar target in 16. The Proteas must hope net run rate does not come into play later on or they will rue that limp chase.
NGIDI REGAINS FITNESS
South Africa desperately need some good news, following injury to pace spearhead Dale Steyn and the World Cup ‘offer’ saga of AB de Villiers. Ngidi injured him hamstring during the defeat to Bangladesh and that severely stretched the already thin South African resources.
But on the eve of the New Zealand clash, Ngidi cleared the fitness test.
“It’s 100 per cent,” Ngidi said. “That’s how the fitness test goes. If you are not bowling at 100% then you are obviously not ready to play. Today was as hard as I could go, at match-intensity.”
That would be music to the ears of Faf du Plessis as he needs all the bowling firepower he can lay his hands on against the unbeaten New Zealand.
A STEP UP FOR THE KIWIS
New Zealand are one of two unbeaten teams this World Cup, apart from India. However, their results are tempered by fact that they have come against Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh with the India-clash washed out.
Bangladesh are not a ‘small’ team anymore and they ran the Kiwis close, going down by two wickets. The South Africans will provide the first major test, at least to the top order batsmen in the form of pacers Kagiso Rabada, Ngidi and in-form leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
The wicket in Birmingham is likely to be dry, which means run scoring might not be easy.
The path ahead for the Kiwis will only get tougher with West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and England in waiting. How they perform against an equally potent – at least on paper – South African side will prove their title credentials.
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, Andile Phehlukwayo, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult
Know more about Sport360 Application