Playoffs start early for the Black Caps at T20
The playoffs have arrived.
Not in the sudden-death sense, but tonight's World Twenty20 tournament Group 1 match against South Africa is as good as a quarterfinal for New Zealand.
Win at Chittagong's Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, then do the same against The Netherlands on Saturday, and the Black Caps can start thinking about where to have dinner in Dhaka ahead of a semifinal.
The eating itinerary is still a way off needing to be sorted yet. But three wins from four games is the accepted standard teams need attain to reach a semifinal and beating England in their opening match has put New Zealand in an enviable position to do that.
The assumption had been that New Zealand would beat England, get towelled up by the Proteas, account for the Dutch and then need an exceptional showing in their final group game to tip Sri Lanka over.
But the first day of matches in Chittagong has altered the thinking a bit.
New Zealand were good, and fortunate with the weather, in their nine-run Duckworth-Lewis win against England, while South Africa returned to their customary habit of playing calamitous cricket at world tournaments, in losing to Sri Lanka by five runs.
The Proteas bowled well overall.
Their fielding, though, was rubbish, while almost all the batsmen gifted their wickets away. It really was shabby stuff at times.
What will aid South Africa, when it comes to playing the Black Caps, is that Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel won't get a better pitch on which to resume the destructive hold they've had over New Zealand's batsmen.
"This is probably the quickest and bounciest wicket you'll come across in the subcontinent," Black Caps bowler Kyle Mills said.
The fact tonight's game is a day time one (local time) should negate the swing that was evident in New Zealand's opening match and mean they might look to play a second spinner, after using just Nathan McCullum against England.
The Black Caps have options and momentum and both are very welcome at an event like this.
"To start the tournament off with a win, you couldn't ask for a better result," said Mills.
"It's a quick turnaround and they [South Africa] are going to come out very hard at us and it's going to be a huge challenge. But if we can get over that hurdle, it sets us up nicely for the back end of the pool [games]."
Mills and Tim Southee were guilty of falling in love with Chittagong's bounce against England.
They need to be fuller tonight and remain resilient.
"All the bowlers wish they could take back two or three balls, but that's just the nature of T20 cricket," he said.
"If you do have a bad over it's really important to still have your shoulders back and head up. You can't betray bad body language.
"[You have to bounce back] because one over could be the winning or losing of the game further down the track."
That'll be essential tonight. Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and David Miller are all batsmen that can take the game away from you.
They can also do inexplicably poor things at knockout events and that knowledge must give the Black Caps and their supporters heart.
The Dominion Post