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New Zealand, South Africa aim to move away from chasing pack

Last updated on 31 Oct 2023 | 02:17 PM
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New Zealand, South Africa aim to move away from chasing pack

November is when the business end of the World Cup begins, and all of these equations and scenarios would drive the story around every point earned and squandered along the way

When we, as Indians, think of South Africa vs New Zealand in the World Cups, the mind doesn’t automatically go to Rugby. It, in fact, reminds you of a crying AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn falling on their knees at Eden Park, thinking about what could have been. It also reminds you of a jubilant Grant Elliot, wielding his willow as a nation of less than 20 million celebrated their moment under the Sun. 

2015 hardly has any resemblance to 2023, but when both sides meet each other at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune on Wednesday, there will be a fresh narrative ready to blow the trumpet. South Africa are placed second and New Zealand are placed in the third position on the points table. As far as competition goes, this is going to skew the base and potentially forge a new equation of sorts. 

A win for New Zealand will help them move away from the chasing pack, whereas South Africa would know a win levels them up with the home side and may as well help them avoid a rampant India in the Mumbai semi-final. November is when the business end of the World Cup begins, and all of these equations and scenarios would drive the story around every point earned and squandered along the way.

New Zealand secured four consecutive wins in the World Cup when they landed in Dharamshala, but instead of mountain freshening them up even more, the Tom Latham-led side faced a couple of demoralizing losses at the hands of India and Australia. Now out of Himachal Pradesh, they will be aiming at the Western Ghats, bringing some solace to their campaign, and they couldn’t have found a more challenging opposition. 

Barring that one loss to the Netherlands, South Africa have five wins already and four of them have come while batting first. They were severely untested under the dew and when the chance finally came against Pakistan, it became a tedious affair. South Africa had to break a lot of sweat to cross the finish line, and it took a valiant effort from Keshav Maharaj to achieve the final nail in the coffin. Can they be more comprehensive against New Zealand? Only time will tell. 

Things to watch out for 

Conway’s slump comes at the most inopportune of time for Kiwis

Devon Conway is consistency personified, but since that century against England in Ahmedabad, the left-hander has frizzled out and is yet to score a 50-plus score. It helped that Rachin Ravindra has continued to pile on runs to become the first New Zealand batter to score more than 400 runs in his maiden World Cup, but he is due a failure. And in that situation, Conway needs to return to his old avatar sooner than before. 

South Africa have cracked the code of batting first, and they are not stopping soon. With New Zealand lacking the impetus beyond Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, and Mitchell Santner, batters hold a greater deal of accountability. Conway, in particular, struggled against slow left-arm orthodox bowlers in this tournament, having been dismissed two times in 21 balls against them. If that struggle continues against Keshav Maharaj, New Zealand will be scared.

South Africa pacers hold the ace

Indian pacers may have ruled the roost, but South Africa, collectively, have an enviable pace unit at their disposal. Their pacers have taken 44 wickets at a bowling average of 24.1, which is the best for a team in this World Cup. 

A total of seven pacers have taken ten or more wickets in this World Cup, and three of them are from South Africa. While their bowling was a huge concern in the first ten overs before the start of this competition, their bowlers have stepped up at the right time by taking 16 wickets across six innings already. They are one of only two teams (Sri Lanka being the other) not to go wicketless at the phase in this World Cup.

That will relatively make the lives of their batters easier, but in India, things can go complex at any time.

Ground details and team combination

In ODIs in Pune, the success rate of teams batting first and batting second is 50% each, with the average first innings score and winning score being 310. 

Pacers have had a lot of assistance at the venue, having taken 5.3 wickets per innings, compared to spinners, who have taken just 1.9 wickets on average. 

Tactical Insights

-> Tom Latham’s performance against spinners has not been good, having been dismissed three times against them in this tournament. One of the dismissals has come against left-arm wrist spinners, so it will be a tough challenge for him if Shamsi plays the upcoming match.

-> Off spinners are the only spinners to have troubled Quinton de Kock, having been dismissed eight times since 2021, while the rest of the spinners have dismissed him just twice. Glenn Phillips could be a threat for him in the upcoming match.

Probable XIs

South Africa are expected to field the same XI. For New Zealand, Kane Williamson was seen practicing on the eve of the game. If fit, he will replace Will Young in the XI. 

New Zealand: Devon Conway, Will Young, Rachin Ravindra, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Latham, Glenn Phillips, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson

South Africa: Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Gerald Coetzee, Lungi Ngidi

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