The Black Caps are set to play in their fifth match of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, against South Africa in Birmingham tonight. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know – well, at least most of what you need to know - about the clash.
Is it going to rain?
Geez, hello to you too, straight in there with a weather question like small talk with the grandparents. I can understand why it's the big question, after the anticipated clash with India was completely washed out, but I bring good news – we should be able to get a game in.
A full game?
Hopefully. There is a chance of rain - nothing particularly long-lasting - until about midday, but after that the forecast looks promising. A few brief showers have hit the night before the game, but compared to Nottingham, where it was bucketing down for days on end, the Edgbaston groundstaff should have few problems getting the ground swiftly ready for play.
11 days between games – how has that been to handle?
A grind. I personally-
I don't care about you, I'm asking about the players!
Rude! Well, the players haven't had too much do, being trapped inside until two days ago, when they were able to enjoy their first outdoor training in 10 days. Indoor trainings, team quizzes and a few days to themselves kept the mood light though, and the players are raring to get out there against South Africa.
South Africa have been terrible right? So this should be a win?
It certainly hasn't been a good start for South Africa, but losses to England and India were probably expected, and their defeat to Bangladesh looks a little better in light of recent results. The rain out against the West Indies hurt, and like everyone else, they smashed Afghanistan, claiming their first win in their fifth game.
They're still a dangerous outfit though, with plenty of world-class operators, especially in a bowling attack which could profit from the Edgbaston pitch.
What's so potentially profitable about the pitch?
For one, it's not green. So gone is the usual surface the Black Caps have benefitted from so far, having won the toss and bowled on all three green wickets, and then enjoying their seamers ripping through the opposition batting lineup. This pitch is brown, and Trent Boult isn't sure what to expect from it, while his quick bowling counterpart Lundi Ngidi thinks it might be a slower wicket – so it could be a surface where South African spinner Imran Tahir makes a mark.
Could we see a change to the New Zealand XI then? Ish Sodhi, perhaps?
Possibly, though it would still be a fairly bold call. The two long-fought position battles – Colin Munro v Henry Nicholls and Matt Henry v Tim Southee – will again be debated, with the possible favouritism going to the incumbents, while Sodhi could slot in for Colin de Grandhomme. That would leave the Black Caps with a longer tail order though, so an unchanged side is probably the most likely option.
What have South Africa been saying about this match?
A mixed bag of thoughts. Andile Phehlukwayo believes that South Africa have the mental edge, having won the two most recent ODI series between the two sides, but the 23 year old's exuberance wasn't quite shared by fellow all-rounder Chris Morris, who instead piled the Black Caps with praise.
"They are one of the favourites, to be honest," said Morris.
"They have got a really good team. Well-balanced, well-led, and I don't want to call them dark horses because they deserve more than that. They are a really good, world-class team.
"There's nowhere to hide from those guys. They are that good. They've got a seriously good bowling attack, a seriously good batting line-up - a destructive batting line-up. If they get going, they are difficult to stop. We'll have to be at our best to beat those guys."
Has anyone been talking about the 2015 semifinal?
Not really! The Black Caps have downplayed the significance, possibly purposefully, while South Africa are largely batting away questions about having lost their last four World Cup matches against New Zealand. Quinton de Kock did say the 2015 semifinal was the second biggest atmosphere he's played in, behind the IPL final, while Boult joked that he was just hoping he wasn't required to bat.
If you want to read more than a paragraph reminiscing about that game, I strongly recommend you read the fantastic oral history on the match put together by Dylan Cleaver and Andrew Alderson.
What impact will this result have on the Black Caps' semifinal chances?
A win would pretty much secure a semifinal spot – they would likely need one more win in their final four games to be safe, and the upcoming clashes against the West Indies and Pakistan are arguably easier than tonight's battle with South Africa. A loss would put a lot more emphasis on those two games, but the Black Caps would still be in a strong position.
This is where you put your self-promotion on how to follow the game, remember?
Ah, of course! Gladly. You can listen to live commentary on Radio Sport, and I will be doing a Live Q+A on this here website from 8.30pm, before our live updates get underway at 9.30pm. As that Dilmah Tea guy famously stated, do try it!