The Black Caps play in a Cricket World Cup semifinal against India at 9.30pm tonight. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know – well, at least most of what you need to know - about the clash.
Finally, a chance to play India at a World Cup! I've been waiting for 16 years. There will be a game … right?
Well, probably! Though it would be darkly humorous if rain washed out New Zealand v India for a second time at this World Cup, it doesn't seem likely. There is some rain predicted for Manchester, but not for long periods, and if it does hit, it's not expected to be too heavy. The danger could come in the overcast conditions and minimal wind around, meaning if there is some rain, it could take longer than usual for the field to dry – but there should be enough dry spells to get a completed game in, and if we're being optimistic, a full 50-over affair.
There is also a reserve day available if rain does strike, though the forecast is slightly worse for Wednesday. If worst does come to worst, India would advance as the higher qualifier from the group stage, but hopefully, Messrs. Duckworth, Lewis and Stern are denied entry into Old Trafford.
Will the weather impact any decisions at the toss?
Perhaps only if the conditions are drastically suited to bowling. The wise Dylan Cleaver believes that New Zealand's only realistic route to victory is to bowl first, but that is a contrarian take, with most people expecting the toss-winning captain to opt to bat first.
All five teams who have batted first at Old Trafford this World Cup have won, and chasing totals has proved difficult of late in the English conditions. Having said that, the wickets in Manchester have held up well in the second innings – unlike those the Black Caps had to bat second on at Lord's and Chester-le-Street – and while I suspect a toss victory will lead to a call of "We'll have a bat", it might not be as influential a coinflip as previous games.
Will the Black Caps make any changes?
Lockie Ferguson – recovered from a tight hamstring – will come back in, most likely for Tim Southee, with Matt Henry having bowled well against England, and likely to get the nod to open the bowling, where he could be economical early on. Tom Blundell won't play, and Henry Nicholls will likely get a third chance to open the batting alongside Martin Guptill, leaving the only other real selection poser as to whether Ish Sodhi will be picked ahead of Mitchell Santner.
It would be an aggressive move – and Santner has been slightly unlucky this tournament – and for a team without much of a history of aggressive decisions at this Cup, it would be a surprise.
How about India, how will they line up?
India have some selection quandaries too, but they're undoubtedly much better problems to have than the Black Caps' choices.
The main debate lies over the balance of their side – do they opt for their usual two spinners in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal – both players who have shone recently against New Zealand? Do they add an extra seamer, and pick both Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar to go alongside Jasprit Bumrah? Does Ravindra Jadeja's strong showing against Sri Lanka and added value as a batsman push him into contention? Pick Kedhar Yadhav in the middle order, or a three-wicketkeeper approach with Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik? Why am I asking so many questions??
Frankly, if Rohit Sharma (a record five centuries at this World Cup), Virat Kohli (the greatest ODI batsman of all time) and Bumrah (the world's No 1 ODI bowler) keep up their form, all those questions may not matter.
When you put it that way, it's going to be tough … Can the Black Caps win?
They definitely have a chance, but it's a rather slim one. They've shown in Hamilton this summer (bowling India out for 92) and in their World Cup warm-up match in May (rolling them for 172) just how dangerous they can be at their best, but that's what they'll need to produce - their best.
New Zealand need to nail several key areas – at least 10, in fact. *Cooking infomercial voice:* Here's something I prepared a little earlier about how they can pull off a major upset.
If this happens to be our last "All You Need To Know", could you send us out with an absurd take?
With pleasure. This might sound crazy, but I think Colin de Grandhomme needs to bowl close to 10 overs if the Black Caps are to have their maximum chance of winning.
The rationale – if de Grandhomme is a legitimate bowling option, that likely means the ball is swinging. And to trouble this immense Indian batting lineup, the Black Caps will surely need the ball to swing, and de Grandhomme and Boult to repeat their sensational swinging display from Seddon Park earlier this year. If there's little swing on offer, I'm not sure the Black Caps bowling options have enough firepower outside of Boult and Ferguson to make the breakthroughs required – unless the batsman finally stand up.
It would certainly be timely if they did.
Just as loony a take as I was hoping for. Ok, finally - how can I follow the game tonight?
Radio Sport will have live commentary of the game, and we will have live updates on nzherald.co.nz from around 8.00pm, including insights of varying quality from yours truly at the ground as we build up for the Black Caps' biggest game in four years. Enjoy.
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT