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Pune, Oct 31: Two of the form teams of the tournament New Zealand and South Africa meet here at the MCA International Stadium on Wednesday and this has the potential to act as a precursor to what may lay ahead in the knockout stages of the event.

A victory here will have the winner with one foot in the semi-finals of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, while the loser may become vulnerable to the chasing pack.

The two sides currently occupy second and third positions on the standings and will meet again in the semi-finals of the competition should they remain in those spots at the end of the group phase.There is still plenty of cricket to be played before the start of the semis and this looms as a pivotal encounter to the make-up of the top four with the winner one step closer to a spot in the knockout stages.
Interestingly enough, the two teams have not met in an ODI since the most recent World Cup in England and Wales in 2019 and on that occasion it was the Kiwis that prevailed in a thriller on the back of a magnificent century to skipper Kane Williamson.

Williamson is in contention to return from his thumb injury to take on the Proteas although the news isn’t as good for Lockie Ferguson, with the pace spearhead set to be sidelined with an Achilles concern. Mark Chapman (calf) also remains in doubt.South Africa have no fresh injury worries, with right-arm quick Kagiso Rabada to be monitored prior to the clash after he missed the Proteas’ recent match against Pakistan with a back problem.

While the New Zealand underrated left-armer Mitch Santner continues to go about his business with a minimum of fuss, there’s no doubt the Kiwi spinner remains one of the most dangerous bowlers at the World Cup.Santner has 14 wickets at the tournament so far, with his best performance coming against the Netherlands in Hyderabad when the 31-year-old picked up a five-wicket haul.

While expensive when taking 2/80 during New Zealand’s most recent encounter against rivals Australia, it must be noted that Santner is often used by his captain to try and break a healthy partnership.
The Proteas will be wary of Santner’s guile with the ball as underestimating it often leads to failure.
South Africa left-hander Quinton de Kock has been in fine touch for the Proteas at the World Cup, having already amassed three centuries and a tournament-best 431 runs. De Kock’s finest effort came against Bangladesh where the 30-year-old plundered a massive knock of 174 and the Kiwis will be hoping to see the back of the skilled opener very early in the South Africa innings.

While South Africa have many talented batters within their top six, it is de Kock that holds that batting group together and when he scores well it usually means the team performs admirably too.

Squads:
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitch Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Will Young.

South Africa: Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams.