By Niall Anderson in Birmingham
Having waited for more than a week since their last Cricket World Cup clash, the Black Caps are now preparing for a pivotal period - one which could be decisive in securing New Zealand a semifinal berth.
That's the best-case scenario from what looms as a vital week for the Black Caps' semifinal chances, with games against South Africa on Wednesday and the West Indies on Sunday being potentially crucial.
Win both of those games, and the Black Caps will be sitting pretty on 11 points – generally believed to be the magic number to make the semifinals – with three games remaining.
And, if other results go to the form book, they could be right on the cusp of having locked in a semifinal spot, before even having to take on Pakistan, Australia or England.
After India's win over Pakistan yesterday morning, a clear top four has emerged at the World Cup. Australia sit on eight points from five games, India and New Zealand have garnered seven points from four games, and England have claimed six from the same allotment.
There's then a gap back to Bangladesh (five points from five matches) and Sri Lanka (four points in five matches), before three teams sit on three points – already two wins behind the Black Caps, halfway through the tournament.
That gap could realistically grow this week, especially if the current top-four sides continue to take care of business.
England play twice this week, against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, while India (versus Afghanistan) and Australia (taking on Bangladesh) also have games they are expected to win, which could extend the disparity between the top four and the rest.
The trickiest challenges will be those faced by the Black Caps, who have to take on South Africa and the West Indies – both sides with serious potential, who will know how crucial a victory over New Zealand would be to their semifinal chances.
But, if New Zealand win both clashes, and the other games this week are won by the favoured team, this is how the table would look come the completion of their West Indies encounter on Sunday.
1. New Zealand – 11 points in six games
2. Australia – 10 points in six games
3. England – 10 points in six games
4. India – Nine points in five games
5. Bangladesh – Five points in six games
6. Sri Lanka – Four points in six games
7. West Indies – Three points in six games
8. Pakistan – Three points in five games
9. South Africa – Three points in six games
10. Afghanistan – No points in six games
From that position, the Black Caps would be almost certainly assured of a semifinal spot. To miss out, they would have to lose their last three games, then see Bangladesh or Pakistan win all their remaining games – and pass New Zealand on net run rate.
Anything else, and the World Cup group stage will be heading to a rather anticlimactic conclusion, though it will require some excellent performances from the Black Caps to topple both South Africa and the West Indies back-to-back.
The most likely scenario – which probably includes New Zealand dropping one of the two games this week - sees the Black Caps still needing to claim one more win in their last three games to be assured of a semifinal spot.
However, if they can indeed wrap up a semifinal spot before their final two games, it would be a huge fillip, and allow them to take on Australia and England without the potential pressure of a "must-win" game.
Perhaps, after they were denied the challenge of facing India, such a situation would be just what the Black Caps need. But the way things are going, their prospects of booking an early semifinal berth are looking better by the day, and could be sealed in seven.