World Cup 2019: Desperate South Africa faces unbeaten New Zealand

The New Zealand match is the first of four which is a must-win for South Africa.

South Africa registered its first win of the World Cup against Afghanistan in Cardiff, with Imran Tahir laying the foundation with four for 29 with the ball.   -  AFP

A defeat to New Zealand in the semifinals ended South Africa’s 2015 World Cup campaign. So, the Proteas will look to avenge that loss as they take on the Kiwis at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Wednesday. It is the first of four must-win matches for Faf du Plessis' men, for whom New Zealand and Australia are the only two top-four opponents left.

The two teams have had contrasting fortunes in this tournament as South Africa has lost three of its five games, while New Zealand is yet to taste a defeat in four matches. Both teams have had a match abandoned due to bad weather.

South Africa, with its back to the wall, wants to keep its “heads steady and play freely.” “It's a big game for us. Our next three or four games are going to be big games,” wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock said.

Read: Boult expects 'hungry' SA against NZ

After a few disappointing outings, the Proteas batsmen – particularly Hashim Amla and de Kock – returned to form in the match against Afghanistan. Skipper Faf du Plessis and the duo will need to shoulder the batting responsibility in this all-important clash.

The return of pacer Ngidi Lungi bolsters the bowling department, which needs to stick together in a bid to keep South Africa’s World Cup hopes alive. The 40-year-old spinner Imran Tahir -- who has grabbed eight wickets – can play a key role if the Edgbaston surface offers some turn.

Skipper Kane Williamson anchored New Zealand to comfortable victories over Bangladesh and Afghanistan, while Ross Taylor has also been in form. It will be smooth sailing for the Black Caps if the two openers – Colin Munro and Martin Guptill – can fire as well.

Paceman Trent Boult, who has bagged only three wickets so far, is not perturbed by the lack of wickets. “We’ve got 30 wickets, that's the only thing I'm worried about. I think as a unit we've been going well. We've put the ball where we wanted, and we've put a lot of pressure on the teams,” he said. “If we can continue to do it as a unit and obviously give us some low totals to chase, then I'll be happy.”

We can be rest assured of a mouth-watering clash.

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