Big Picture

South Africa entered this World Cup 'under the radar', but that's essentially where their campaign has stayed. Still, after three defeats, a washout and a solitary win so far, they are definitely a threat even as the scrap for positions in the top four heats up.

New Zealand, meanwhile, invented flying under the radar at World Cups, and so far they've done a good job of showing how stealth mode is supposed to be done. They don't have a batsman in the top 10 run-getters in this tournament, or a bowler in the top five wicket-takers, yet they're one of only two unbeaten teams (the other being India). Classic.

At more or less halfway through the current tournament, they are nestled safely near the top of the points table and another semi-final berth beckons. But it's also important to note that the Blackcaps have gotten the better of some of the weaker teams at the World Cup to elevate themselves thus far, with wins over Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The game against India would undoubtedly have provided them with a stern test but it was washed out. With similar challenges to come - their last two group stage games are against England and Australia - two points tomorrow would help to provide a cushion.

While New Zealand are on course to repeat their usual World Cup story with a trip to the semis, South Africa will be hoping to leave history behind them. Not since the last World Cup in England twenty years ago have they beaten New Zealand at a World Cup.

Pace was supposed to be ace this time around, but what could have been the most fearsome threesome in the tournament has been steadily dismantled by injury and middling form. Dale Steyn limped home, Lungi Ngidi has been sidelined (until now) and a lonely Kagiso Rabada hasn't been at his best in their absence, with just five wickets and an average nudging 40.

Where South Africa's issues have really been compounded, however, is in their under-performing top order. The Proteas have the endured the worst Powerplay performance of any batting unit in the tournament, losing seven wickets during overs 1-10 in their first five games for a ponderous run rate of just 4.1 and a lowly average of 27.6. They are yet to hit a single six in this period.

Coming up against some of the canniest new-ball bowlers in world cricket, they appear very vulnerable - and this despite the fact that Quinton de Kock has been in good form, with two fifties and an average of 46.50 in five innings so far.

But it has not escaped South Africa's attention that New Zealand's middle order has also shown signs of vulnerability, as was the case in their match against Bangladesh. That's exactly the sort of potential weakness they will need to exploit in what is effectively another must-win game.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: WWWWW
South Africa: WLLLW

In the spotlight

Imran Tahir seems to have re-discovered his best form, but Rabada is yet to do so. Perhaps the pressure of the big stage is getting to him, especially without Steyn and Ngidi around? His average in ICC tournaments in England has now ballooned to over 50, while his strike rate (21.8) and runs conceded (7.2 per over) at the death have also gone up this year. New Zealand offer a good chance for a turnaround: his average of 19.8 against them is his best against any opponent in ODIs (out of teams at the World Cup), while his economy rate of 4.2 is also his best.

While the spinners may ultimately dictate the flow of this game, it's with pace up front that New Zealand could potentially inflict terminal damage. With just three wickets and an average on the wrong side of 40 after three games, Trent Boult's numbers so far don't back up just how well he's actually bowled - he's been very unlucky, with more than 13% of his deliveries beating the bat - and his new-ball battle with Quinton de Kock could prove pivotal. De Kock averages just 16 against Boult in ODIs, having been dismissed four times in the 79 balls he has received from the left-arm quick in this format. When de Kock falls early, South Africa usually struggle.


Vettori: Nicholls could add depth to the middle order

Daniel Vettori wants Henry Nicholls and Tim Southee in New Zealand's XI for their clash against South Africa

Team news

New Zealand have no pressing reason to change their XI, with Colin Munro likely to keep his spot ahead of Henry Nicholls. But if the conditions are right, they may look to deploy legspinner Ish Sodhi alongside left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, possibly in place of Colin de Grandhomme.

New Zealand (possible): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 James Neesham, 7 Colin de Grandhomme/Ish Sodhi, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Matt Henry, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Trent Boult

A fit-again Ngidi is sure to re-enter the playing XI, and South Africa may also include Tabraiz Shamsi if they, too, feel the pitch is suited to spin - especially given the way New Zealand's middle order froze against Bangladesh. Another option could be to bring JP Duminy back, both as a middle order bat and a handy offspinner. Plus, his experience could prove useful in a crunch match.

South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Aiden Markram, 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 Rassie van der Dussen, 6 David Miller/JP Duminy, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Imran Tahir

Pitch and conditions

This is the first match to be played at Edgbaston so far, but New Zealand should have a solid source for intel in Jeetan Patel. Their former colleague and current Warwickshire captain took 6 for 16 in a County Championship match here (on the way to match figures of 10 for 88) two weeks ago.

The off-white colour of the surface suggests it should be full of runs, but it might not be the quickest track and there could be some turn on offer. A slow track might increase the threat posed by Tahir, but it will also expose a weakness in South Africa's middle order. The weather forecast looks a little bleak, with temperatures on the low side and rain lurking.

Strategy punt

  • If there is turn to be had, Tahir is best-placed among the potential participants in this game to exploit it. The legspinner has already taken the new ball twice in this tournament, and conditions at Edgbaston could prompt another early appearance from him. Specifically, South Africa could use Tahir to target Colin Munro, and thus create an early opening into the middle order. Munro opened his World Cup with a bruising fifty in the 10-wicket win over Sri Lanka, and is one of the fastest starters in the game, with a strike rate of 106.2 in his first 20 balls. But he can struggle against spin, averaging just 22.2 against slow bowlers with a strike rate under a run a ball. And while he does start quickly, 55% of Munro's dismissals also come in his first 20 balls, so South Africa could sense an opportunity.

  • If they don't play two spinners, New Zealand should feel confident that their two allrounders - Neesham and de Grandhomme - will be able to stifle South Africa's middle order. Neesham has proved particularly effective against Faf du Plessis and David Miller in the past, with du Plessis averaging just 17.5 against him and Miller a paltry 6.0, with two dismissals each. De Grandhomme has also dismissed du Plessis twice in ODIs, while keeping him to a strike rate of just 60.

Stats and trivia

  • Kane Williamson has fallen four times in eight games to Imran Tahir, averaging just 15.8 against him. Tahir has also got Ross Taylor twice in five games, with Taylor scoring at a strike rate of just 56.

  • Williamson needs one more to reach fifty 50-plus scores in ODIs

  • Three of the last five ODIs at Edgbaston have been won by the side chasing. And captains tend to prefer bowling first here; they've done so 38 times in the last 58 ODIs here.

  • South Africa have won 40 of the 70 ODIs between these two, but in World Cups, New Zealand have won five of the seven encounters between the two.