However, the ‘good guys’ of world cricket have had a mixed bag of a World Cup so far.After winning the first four matches, their campaign derailed as they lost the next four. However, they are still eyeing their fifth straight semifinal berth.
With three teams-India, South Africa and Australia-having booked three of the four berths, the race for the remaining spot is heading for a photo finish with three teams in contention. New Zealand (8 points, + .398), Pakistan (8,+.036) and Afghanistan (8,-.338) have a match each in hand. New Zealand face Sri Lanka at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday.
A win will strengthen their chances of making it to the last four, but Kane Williamson and his men will have one eye on the sky as evening showers remain a possibility on match day. Rain has already played spoilsport for the Kiwis, who lost to Pakistan via DLS despite scoring 400-plus at the same venue on Saturday.
In an event of points being shared, New Zealand will climb to nine points and will hope for England to beat Pakistan and South Africa to score over Afghanistan.
This is the uncontrollable side of the sport and New Zealand should rather think of getting their act together on the field. Bowling has been a major concern with the team conceding more than 350 runs in the last three matches. The shorter boundaries and the absence of pacer Matt Henry here will not help their cause either.
Henry’s replacement Kylie Jamieson could be a handful while Lockie Ferguson is also available for the game. However, seasoned campaigner Trent Boult and in-form spinner Mitchell Santner will hold the key. New Zealand’s batting is a settled unit with the likes of Rachin Ravindra (523 runs in 8 matches), Daryll Mitchell (375 in 8), Devon Conway (314 in 8) and skipper Kane Williamson (173 in 2) amongst runs.
But, it is not going to be any easy against the Islanders, who have a thing or two to prove despite being eliminated from the competition with four points.
Sri Lanka, who won against a depleted English side and the Netherlands, will treat this clash as a must-win encounter to stay alive in the race for the Champions Trophy 2025. A victory will brighten their chances, but NRR could come into the picture if teams are tied on six points at the end of the league stage.
In the event, they need their big guns, including captain and wicket-keeper batter Kusal Mendis, pacer Dilshan Madushanka and others to be on top of their game.