Nathan Astle: Batsmen must step up or they're going home

Batting has been the Black Caps' weakness at the World Cup so far and whether or not they can overcome poor form will decide their fate at the tournament.

New Zealand's bowling across the World Cup hasn't been too bad, it's the batting that has been the worry, having passed 220 just once against the other quarterfinalists from their group.

It still doesn't look like the guys are knuckling down and following a consistent game plan when they go out to bat.

And because of that they're going to have to play out of their skins to beat South Africa in their quarterfinal matchup on Friday, who across the board are a lot stronger team.

There has been talk during the week that the Black Caps should mix it up and play three spinners but I feel that is the wrong way to play.

Their batting is a big issue so they need that extra batsman, especially against South Africa who I think are going to get quite a substantial total.

The Black Caps are either going to have to chase a big score or set one so they need as many batsmen as possible.

They also have to go with their top XI and to me that's Nathan McCullum and Vettori being the spinners then the likes of Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Mills and Southee bowling the rest of the overs. That's enough bowlers to be effective on the pitch that they are playing on.

The Dhaka pitch will be a little bit slower which could work in New Zealand's favour. The South Africans obviously have a solid pace attack, along with a couple of very good spinners, but the slowness of the pitch will make their strike bowlers less effective.

The biggest obstacle for the Black Caps will be getting over something that has always haunted New Zealand cricket, inconsistency.

We've always lacked that consistency which teams need to win a World Cup, especially to get through the knock out stage or even the final.

It's just a shame that we've haven't reached our potential so far and may not in this tournament. Against Sri Lanka we should have competed a lot better than what we did and that will be in the back of their minds heading into the South Africa clash.

I still don't think the confidence for New Zealand is where it should be and you can see that in the way they are playing.

The return of Kyle Mills and Daniel Vettori will of course be a boost to the team and even though the duo haven't played in recent matches their experience should outweigh the possible disruption caused to changing the lineup once again. Though the way the tournament structure is, where there are long gaps between games, it's not like the side have had a chance to settle anyway.

Just having Vettori and Mills in the lineup and out on the field will be a huge boost. It certainly strengthens our team and will give the rest of the players' confidence when they run out onto the field and see two players with so much experience and leadership standing across from them.

At this stage of the tournament sides need complete team performances. Fielding has to be top notch and you've got to have four maybe five guys putting their hand up on the days, that's across the board with your bowlers and the batters. Someone will have to get a big score and bat throughout the innings with other batting around them, while the bowlers will have to be hitting the mark.

Vettori will have a few emotions going on as he will potentially be playing his last game. I like the fact the he's kept that pretty close to his chest and I'm sure he'll let everyone know in due course of what his plans are.

He's done the right thing keeping silent on the topic as it means there is nothing floating around this game that media or anyone else can be talking about. It means everyone will be focused on this game and then deal with that once the tournament is over for the Black Caps, whenever that will be.

That decision is bang on and the best for the team and the environment going into this game.

- Former Black Cap Nathan Astle was talking to sports editor Cameron McMillan.

- NZ Herald

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