'Desperate' Proteas owe fans back home a performance

Faf du Plessis (Getty Images)
Faf du Plessis (Getty Images)

Birmingham - Wednesday's Cricket World Cup clash between South Africa and New Zealand at Edgbaston is nothing short of tournament-defining for the Proteas. 

If they win, their World Cup semi-final hopes will still have a pulse. If they lose, they will almost certainly be eliminated from the tournament in the pool stages. 

With one win from five, and a No Result in the washout against the West Indies, South Africa have been nowhere near their best and they are now staring an early exit in the face. 

In New Zealand, they face an opposition that remains undefeated in the competition. 

More than that, this is the same opposition that knocked South Africa out of the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup in the most dramatic fashion. 

The also beat the Proteas in the 2011 quarter-final in Dhaka, and the last time the Proteas beat the Black Caps in a World Cup was all the way back in 1999, also at Edgbaston. 

In total, South Africa have beaten New Zealand just twice in seven attempts at the World Cup. 

It makes Wednesday's task all the more intriguing, and drenched in history. 

"We respect every opposition we play, and New Zealand is one of the better teams in world cricket," Proteas spin bowling coach Claude Henderson told media in Birmingham on Monday. 

"They have shown in the last decade how strong they can be, especially in big tournaments.

"I think we can beat them if we play solid cricket. We haven't started well, but the boys have really worked hard. There have been a lot of discussions and if we play good, basic, strong cricket then we've got a very good chance."

According to Henderson, the Proteas are "desperate". 

"Very desperate," he said.

"It means a lot to everyone in the camp; all the players and the support staff.

"There is a lot of pride in South African sport and in the country. They owe this to themselves and also to the supporters.

"When this team gets knocked down, they like to fight back."

The good news for the Proteas is that fast bowler Lungi Ngidi is fit and available for Wednesday's clash after recovering from a hamstring injury. 

Play gets underway at 11:30 (SA time). 

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...    

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