Throwback to 2011: When New Zealand let their nasty out

This current New Zealand team are as fluffy as a cloud and sweeter than a chocolate shake, but they weren't always. South Africa know this better than most. We will get to Auckland 2015, but before that there was Mirpur 2011. Remember that one? It was the quarter-final that descended into a dogfight.

Chasing 222 for victory on a slow track, South Africa had made good headway early on, having moved to 108 for 2 at the end of the 24th over. It was then that the most dreaded of South Africa's World Cup phenomena took grip. Jacques Kallis, who had been doing as Jacques Kallis does, batting sensibly on 47, clobbered an unremarkable Tim Southee short ball to deep midwicket, where Jacob Oram took an outsanding catch. JP Duminy was out soon after, allowing an arm ball from Nathan McCullum to clatter into his stumps. Then, the heart-stopper - new batsman Faf du Plessis pushing Nathan McCullum towards midwicket, calling AB de Villiers through for a quick single, not accounting for the fact that the man swooping on the ball was Martin Guptill, New Zealand's best infielder.

De Villiers was run out, comfortably. South Africa had slipped to 121 for 5. New Zealand pounced. They let their nasty out.

In 2019, more than five years after New Zealand's cricketers re-branded themselves as kindergarten teachers with abs, it is difficult to even imagine the talons that they sprouted that evening.

Ross Taylor, now a serious contender for "Most affable cricketer in the world", was involved a serious confrontation with du Plessis and de Villiers. After de Villiers left the field, Daniel Vettori reminded du Plessis that he'd just run out his team's best batsman just to get off the mark. The most memorable moment of the match was when Kyle Mills, carrying water on to the field for his team-mates and wearing a neon substitute's vest, ran up close to du Plessis and unleashed abuse of his own upon the batsman. Du Plessis shoved him in response. New Zealand players descended on the scene en masse. Du Plessis was basically made a verbal dartboard for the rest of his innings, and three players (including du Plessis, for the shove) were slapped with disciplinary fines in the aftermath.

It almost goes without saying, that New Zealand won, comfortably.

And yet, although that World Cup exit was unquestionably traumatic, the hurt at Auckland was arguably even more profound. We all remember that game. (The last play of it, at least.) Dale Steyn bowling hard length. Grant Elliott slamming it high over perhaps the shortest boundary in world cricket. Eden Park erupting. South Africans weeping, so much that maybe the grass had to be resown, so salted was the earth with tears.

So now we come to 2019, where for the third World Cup in a row, South Africa are about to play a must-win match against New Zealand. This is not the combative New Zealand of 2011, or the Nice Guys (TM) of 2015, but a team made in Kane Williamson's image; a side who don't go out of their way to ruffle oppositions, or to project benevolence, but who just genuinely seem to not to care about much other than batting well, bowling beautifully, shooting around the field like atoms in a particle accelerator, all of which leads to winning games.

Their task in Edgbaston, is to essentially prove themselves. Two of their three first-up wins were against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, who are taking their own special brands of self-sabotage on tour around England and Wales. The other was against Bangladesh, who will reflect that they batted poorly, and that 25 more runs might have changed that game's outcome. Their game against India later on was also rained out, so while South Africa are attempting to avoid tumbling into a ravine, New Zealand are hoping to take their biggest step yet towards the summit.

"I think it's definitely going to be a big challenge to see where we're at," said Trent Boult, who has operated on green decks in Cardiff and Taunton earlier in the tournament. "I think we've been lucky enough to be on a couple of new surfaces that have offered a lot to our style of bowling. The challenge is always going to be to see what we can do on the wickets that don't offer too much, and that's what we're prepared for here. It's a quality wicket. There's been a lot of runs scored here."

Still, although they are still looking for their first big win, there is palpably less on the line here for New Zealand than there is for the opposition. In the 2011 and 2015 knockouts, that had not been the case. They are a strange World Cup nemesis to have, but such is South Africa's plight at major tournaments, that this is their reality.

It almost goes without saying that various demons must be exorcised if they are to avoid being evicted from the World Cup, by the same team, a third consecutive time.