New Zealand v South Africa
Wednesday June 19, 10:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event
Weather helping Black Caps' cause
New Zealand may not be the best team at the World Cup but right now, at least they're the luckiest.
When they went into games against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan as hot favourites, the rain stayed away.
When they went into their match against India as big underdogs, the rain duly arrived. Rather than suffering the same fate as the other three teams who have played India, they walked away with a point, no questions asked.
It was a point that could not only make a difference in terms of qualifying for the semis- they'll almost certainly qualify given their current position – but what position they qualify in. It could mean finishing second or third rather than fourth and thus avoiding the group winner, who could well be India.
They've played the same side so far in all their three matches that got under way but they always have a good option in bringing in star spinner Ish Sodhi, presumably for one of the all-rounders, Colin de Grandhomme or Jimmy Neesham. It would be no problem to move Mitchell Santner up the order to seven, if that were to happen.
Colin Munro and Martin Guptill could do with a big partnership at the of the order, though. It may not make much of a difference here but up against the best sides, they'll need a good start.
Four more finals for the Proteas
Faf du Plessis spoke of ‘five finals' before that win over Afghanistan on Saturday. One down, four to go.
But whereas it was nice to get points on the board at last of course, the win wasn't particularly impressive.
South Africa failed to make much of a breakthrough with the new ball and it was only when Imran Tahir's leg spin bamboozled the Afghan middle order that it became obvious that SA were finally going to win a game.
Even when chasing a low score, it wasn't straightforward, with both Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla struggling for timing.
In the process they missed out on a good opportunity to improve their net run rate. They got to 131 in 28.4 overs. They should have got there in well under 20. Are we really meant to believe that they wouldn't have chased that score eventually, even if they lost four or five wickets along the way? Seems a bit like the opening pair were a bit more concerned with their own form than the team's needs.
Apart from the weather, the other disappointing aspect of this tournament has been a shortage of upsets. Only Pakistan's win over England was a real upset for the books. Even when South Africa lost to Bangladesh it was unexpected as opposed to a shock.
At [1.86] New Zealand however are one of the better-priced selections as favourites.
There's so much that's gone wrong for South Africa so far. Amla got hit on the head, Dale Steyn was ruled out injured before getting a game, Lungi Ngidi got injured as well, the AB de Villiers story broke, they lost their first three matches, bar Tahir no-one is bowling well, no batsman has got to a hundred yet in four games. We could go on.
Contrast that with New Zealand's happy camp. Their three wins were proper team efforts as you'd expect from Kane Williamson's men (pictured) with different players contributing at different times.
New Zealand like playing South Africa at World Cups, by the way. They knocked them out of the last two: defending a low total in 2011 in the quarter-finals and chasing a big one in the 2015 World Cup.
The one and only concern with backing the Black Caps is that they might just be a tad rusty. With that India game rained off, it will have been eleven days since they last played. But that's not enough to put us off.
One has to question the thinking behind some of the prices on the New Zealand top bowler market.
In normal circumstances, Trent Boult would be a perfectly justified 11/4 favourite. But whether it's that he's just not bowling that well now or that batsmen are playing him with caution this tournament, he's only taken three wickets so far.
James Neesham (7/2) is being priced up purely on the back of his performance in the last match. Great: he took five wickets and was man-of-the-match, but that was a serious anomaly. His career stats show that he averages less than a wicket a game in ODIs and is lucky if he gets to bowl six overs.
Santner (7/2) rarely wins this market and Tim Southee (also 7/2) is unlikely to even play.
So that leaves Matt Henry (10/3) and Lockie Ferguson (7/2). Go with Ferguson. His eight wickets are one more than Henry and his economy rate of 3.88 to Henry's 5.17 suggests batsmen are just finding him extremely hard to play. He's also a bigger price. No-brainer.
Quinton de Kock is an understandable favourite to top score for South Africa at 3/1. Not only is he their top scorer for the tournament, he's top scored in two of their four completed innings.
The interesting runner though is Rassie Van der Dussen at a big-looking 7/1. At worst he'll bat at five, has looked very composed so far, is their second highest scorer and it would be no huge surprise if New Zealand's bowlers take care of South Africa's top order for not that many.