By Niall Anderson in Birmingham
The Black Caps have a chance to make Cricket World Cup history today – but they might be well-advised to turn down the opportunity.
Coach Gary Stead has the prospect of selecting the same XI for a sixth straight World Cup match – which would set a new mark for New Zealand's consistency of selection over the 44-year history of the tournament.
The current record stands at five, shared by the XI who have started the 2019 World Cup unbeaten, and the 2015 squad, who also began their campaign with five consecutive wins, generated by an unchanged XI.
The 2015 iteration's eventual change was injury-enforced, with Adam Milne's bruised shoulder seeing him miss the game against Bangladesh, with Mitchell McClenaghan replacing the speedster. Milne returned to play the West Indies in the quarter-final, but then suffered a heel injury, with Matt Henry replacing him for the semifinal and final.
For the 2019 group though, there is a strong case for changes to be made to play Pakistan at Edgbaston tonight – even considering their unbeaten run. In fact, one could argue this is the last chance for the likes of Tim Southee, Henry Nicholls and Ish Sodhi to get a game, injuries aside, unless the Black Caps are bold enough to hand them their 2019 Cup debut in a game against Australia or England, or in the semifinal.
It would be a tall order – throwing the players into the fire, in a way – but Stead has faith that the experienced trio could all handle such a requirement without any prior match fitness.
"I've got faith in all the squad, yes it would be nice to have them all playing but you can only play 11 and the 11 we've been playing have been doing it really well for us at this stage, but we'll assess out here and if we think we need to make a change we will do so. We'll weigh up the options on what we think the best team is on this pitch."
That pitch will be the same one as the Black Caps' last-over win over South Africa – a game where Sodhi was strongly considered to play – but Stead doesn't believe the wicket will play exactly as it did last week.
"I've got a feeling it might be a touch quicker. The last game we played here, I think that was a little bit underprepared in terms of the time we'd had on the wicket, the surface was a touch soft, and that's why it gripped a wee bit – I think it's a bit harder now and the groundsman tells me it's a bit harder on his readings as well."
Henry bowled exceptionally on that wicket against South Africa, going for just 34 runs from his 10 overs – only nine runs more than he got tonked for in six balls by Carlos Brathwaite in Manchester.
However, Stead credits that blip to the nature of death bowling, and is tipping Henry to bounce back.
"That's just part of cricket. Every time you play in a game like that, someone's going to go for some runs at some stage, with the power of [Chris] Gayle and Brathwaite, I'm just thankful we got over the line against them because they've a very dangerous team. Matt will be fine, it's happened to him in the past and it will probably happen again at some stage, so we'll just try to get better at executing those skills."
The final point of contention will come, as it has done for most of the tournament, at the opening position. Colin Munro's spot is still under question, having not passed 25 for four innings, while both he and opening partner Martin Guptill were removed for first-ball ducks against the West Indies.
Stead is happy for the pair to continue to take an aggressive approach.
"In any team you're going to have times where people don't score runs – Martin and Colin have both done it for us in the past on numerous occasions and I hope that their time will be next game, but they're the unknowns and uncertainties of cricket. But if they come off, it's going to make it easier for Kane and Rosco and the guys after that as well."
So, some under-pressure players, all unsurprisingly backed by a coach who has shown the willingness to stick to his guns.
Tonight, though, we will discover whether Stead's loyalty will reach record levels.