Cricket: Now or never for Black Caps

The cricket World Cup quarterfinal against South Africa is one of those odd occasions when New Zealand would be quite content to front with 11 Scott Styrises.

An obstinate character at the best of times, the grizzled veteran is confronting what is potentially his World Cup swansong tomorrow against one of the title favourites at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

The 35-year-old allrounder surely cannot hang around until the next World Cup in another four years, making the eliminator in all likelihood the last time he will have the chance to have a say in front of a worldwide audience.

Normally never short of a word, Styris' sharpened competitiveness honed through 186 one-day internationals borders on cussedness, a quality the New Zealanders will want in spades against a super confident South African outfit stacked with world beaters and determined to bury the ghosts of teams past and secure their country's very first World Cup title.

By his own lofty standards Styris has had a quiet tournament, with just 69 runs at an average of 17.25 and four wickets in a light workload of 26.4 overs.

Coach John Wright has already signalled he wants Styris to be more involved tomorrow, with a shift into the top five of the batting order looming at the expense of James Franklin, while his medium paced deliveries should get a solid workout on a pitch expected to favour the spinners and help blunt South Africa's vaunted past bowling attack headed by Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

New Zealand's cause will be helped by the return of captain Daniel Vettori, their best bowler who missed the last two group matches due to a knee injury, while they will also hope that savvy seamer Kyle Mills has overcome a quad injury to take his place for a must-win match.

The experience of these two alone will be a boost in conditions that could well see the selectors include batsman Kane Williamson principally due to his ability to provide five overs of offspin to add to the slow bowling overs of Vettori and Nathan McCullum.

The Mirpur track is expected to hold up, meaning batting fluency should be difficult and the New Zealanders could look to complete 25 of their overs with their slow bowlers, leaving Tim Southee, Jacob Oram and possibly Mills plus Styris to complete the remainder.

But anything less than their best and New Zealand will be rushing towards the World Cup exit, and even then South Africa at their best will arguably account for Vettori's inconsistent side nine times out of 10.

South Africa, with a lineup oozing class with the likes of Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, captain Graeme Smith, Steyn and Morkel topped group B, losing only to England and completing their group commitments by overwhelming Bangladesh by 206 at the venue being used tomorrow.

New Zealand, by comparison, have been their normal up and down selves, finishing fourth in group A after losing heavily to Australia and Sri Lanka either side of a fine win over Pakistan, and anticipated victories over minnows Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe.

But they have not announced themselves as genuine title contenders and Wright has not been able to hide his frustration.

"It's frustrating when you see the same errors repeated over and over again," he said after the comprehensive loss to Sri Lanka in Mumbai last weekend.

"You must learn from your mistakes and that's all I want really."

Too true. If the mistakes of the past month are not corrected tomorrow, the New Zealanders will have plenty of time to ponder their inadequacies.

New Zealand (possible): Daniel Vettori (captain), Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Kane Williamson, Nathan McCullum, Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee.

South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Francois du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Rod Tucker (Australia).

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