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Cricket news - A dance of fire and ice

The mood in the New Zealand camp has been chilled

Craig McMillan, former Black Cap and now the team's batting coach, spoke about controversies, dubious umpiring and match referee sanctions when he addressed the pre-match press conference at Edgbaston. His insinuations, though, had nothing to do with cricket at all and were instead directed at teammate Ross Taylor, who had officiated at the New Zealand team's 'Quiz Night' on Monday. It is all indicative of the mood in the New Zealand camp: Chilled. They last played a World Cup game on June 8 with the UK weather keeping them indoors since for 10 successive days. They are wary of being caught cold when they get back on the field but do not stress about the "uncontrollables".

Conventional wisdom would have you believe that South Africa could do with such an attitude to maximise their own throughput. But they are above such banality, especially at World Cups. Three defeats in the first week has meant Faf du Plessis's press conferences have a slightly different tenor. Fire, intensity and "four quarter-finals" are some of his oft-repeated narratives.

Du Plessis knows now is no time to be mellow or self-defeating in disposition. Not when South Africa are in another (virtual) knockout game at a venue and against an opposition that have played antagonists in heartbreaks of World Cups past. It is this contrast and context that makes this cricket match worthy of those hushed comparisons to the vastly popular Springboks versus All Blacks clashes.

Wednesday's clash will not quite be March 24, 2015 even though 12 of the 22 that played that night will be around for this one. Defeat may prove to be terminal for only one team. However, New Zealand's as-yet smooth passage into the final-four could still be hampered with big games to follow in the second half of the tournament. They have beaten South Africa in each of their last four World Cup clashes dating back to 2003 and have history to uphold. Those in the lime green, however, have a complicated relationship with the past - they did beat NZ here in the 1999 World Cup. It's the bright future they most look forward to.

When: South Africa vs New Zealand, CWC19, June 19, 10:30 Local, 15:00 IST

Where: Edgbaston, Birmingham

What to expect: Some showers are forecast around noon, but are expected to abate in an hour. If at all, there should only be a minor delay in the game. For Birmingham's first game of this World Cup, the pitch is devoid of any grass but may have trapped some moisture underneath with all the weather around. Expect it to be generally good for batting. Both sides envision a role for spinners in this one.

Team News:

South Africa: Lungi Ngidi passed a fitness test two days out from the game and should be reintegrated into the playing XI in what is a must-win clash. Du Plessis has constantly underscored the importance of consistency in selection and Ngidi coming in for Beuran Hendricks is likely to be the only one he makes for this game.

Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir

New Zealand: There will be a temptation for New Zealand to play legspinner Ish Sodhi given the surface and South Africa's propensity to struggle against wrist spin. To do that, Williamson will have to take a hard call on leaving out one of Matt Henry or Lockie Ferguson. Tim Southee is another option having regained full fitness himself. If they do make the change, it'll be their first of the tournament having played the same XI in each of their three [completed] games so far.

Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Ish Sodhi/Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult

Did you know?

- Defeat against New Zealand will not knock South Africa out of a semifinal berth but will leave them perilously on the brink

- Since that Eden Park semi-final, South Africa have won more matches than they've lost (5-3) in ODI clashes against New Zealand

- Quinton de Kock averages 31.42 in ICC ODI events, significantly down from the 50.54 he averages in bilaterals

- Imran Tahir and Lockie Ferguson have taken seven wickets each - the most - between overs 11 and 40 in this World Cup

What they said:

"I don't think we are going out there to be the nice guys of world cricket or put on a front of any sorts. We are just being genuine in being who we are and I think we just play the game in good spirits really. It's just a game in my opinion and it's about enjoying it. I think that's why a lot of guys and girls and kids follow the team, because we just go out and have fun." - Trent Boult on if the perception about New Zealand being 'nice guys' can hold the team back.

"Imran has been a star for this team. He has proven to world cricket how well he can perform, even when he is under pressure. This is his last World Cup, but he is loving every minute still, which is amazing. He's got great passion and what an example he is for any young cricketer." - South Africa spin coach Claude Henderson on the 'Tahir factor'.

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