By Niall Anderson in Chester-le-Street
Whether they have one, two, or three games left at the Cricket World Cup, the Black Caps are set to pick Martin Guptill and Tom Latham in their starting XI for every encounter.
That's the Black Caps' ethos – have faith in the experienced campaigners with proven track records – and they're not straying from it, despite both Guptill and Latham being embroiled in batting slumps.
Guptill has shown glimpses – he started the tournament with an unbeaten 73 against Sri Lanka, made 35 against South Africa before standing on his stumps, and has reached 20 on two further occasions.
Two first-ball ducks and a mere five against Pakistan blot the scorebook, but Guptill has a history of emerging from funks with big performances, and the Black Caps are keeping faith in one of New Zealand's greatest ODI batsmen.
Latham's situation is slightly less cut-and-dry. Coming into the World Cup having just recovered in time from a fractured finger, Latham hasn't passed 15 in his six innings at the World Cup, a shocking run only slightly mitigated by having been inserted into a few tricky scenarios where he had to deal with a rapidly rising required run rate, or was required to play aggressively from ball one.
However, the Black Caps dropping one of their most credentialed batsmen and vice-captain for the uncapped Tom Blundell would have been unfathomable at the start of the tournament; a reasonable indicator of a decision that would be rashly made.
And, while Latham's run of form is his worst since returns of 4, 7, 0, 0, 2, 0 and 15 when opening the batting in 2017, you only have to look at his next four ODI innings after that slump – 54, 104, 84 and 103 not out – to see why Black Caps batting coach Craig McMillan is tipping a return to form.
"One thing you notice about World Cups and tournament play – you have fluctuations in terms of form throughout a tournament, and you've just got to ride with that," said McMillan.
"Obviously both those players are a touch short on runs but we're actually quite excited by the fact we haven't quite clicked as a batting unit yet, but we're still at this point in the tournament where we've got one game left and if we win that, we know we're dead certs for a semifinal.
"They're two players that we have a lot of trust in, they've done the job for us over a period of years, and we're backing them to come good."
With Kane Williamson having a stellar tournament and Ross Taylor, Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme all having contributed runs, McMillan knows how timely and pivotal a boost from Guptill and Latham could be for the Black Caps' chances of claiming a major victory as the tournament reaches the business end.
"I've thrown a lot of balls at Tom over the last few days and we've had a lot of conversations, and the same with Martin, he's done a lot of work. Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn't, but we know we've got two world-class players who at their best are going to put a performance on the board that is going to help the team win games, so we're backing them – there's still some cricket to be played and they'll come to the fore."
A strong vote of confidence from the Black Caps coaching staff, but with just a clash against England on Wednesday left before a likely semifinal showdown with either Australia or India, Guptill and Latham are running out of time to deliver on that faith.
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