New Zealand coach Gary Stead hopes Lockie Ferguson can make the difference against India after revealing the pace bowler should be fit for their semi-final clash on Tuesday.
The BLACKCAPS were without their leading wicket-taker in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 for their final group-stage game – a 119-run defeat to England at Chester-le-Street.
Ferguson has been a standout performer for New Zealand in the tournament as they finished fourth in the standings, taking 17 wickets to sit joint-third in the table for the most wickets taken.
And after the 28-year-old was rested as a precaution following a hamstring strain, Stead expects him to be back fit and firing for the showdown with India at Old Trafford.
“I absolutely expect Lockie to play. If the last game was a semi-final or final, we probably would have played him, so it was more a precautionary measure not to play him,” he said.
“He definitely had some hamstring tightness and he needed 48 hours for that to settle down. He’s in good shape and barring getting through the next couple of days, then I expect him to play.
“Lockie has been enormous for us. It is his first World Cup as well and I’ve just been delighted that every time he’s come on to bowl, he’s looked like he’s going to make a difference out there.
“Whether that’s through pace, whether that’s through creating pressure for the other person at the other end – he always has been looking likely and hopefully he can do that again against India.”
Stead was also keen to stress his faith in opening batsman Martin Guptill, who has struggled for form after opening the tournament with an unbeaten knock of 73 against Sri Lanka.
“Martin’s got a lot of ODI hundreds and he has been a key player for us in the past. Our job as support staff is to get him in the right frame of mind,” said Stead.
“He’ll go out and express himself and who knows, if he makes 150 in the next game, then we probably won’t be talking about this anymore.
“People go through form slumps and heights all the time. He’s had a tough tournament but there’s nothing from my point of view that suggests that’s going to continue for a long period of time.”
Having lost their last three games of the round-robin stage, New Zealand have been described by some as the weakest of the teams to qualify for the semi-final stage.
But Stead is more than happy to let the BLACKCAPS be considered the underdogs as they attempt to reach their second World Cup final, following their defeat to Australia in the 2015 showpiece.
"We’ve got a couple of afternoons to be ready for India now,” he said.
“I’m just excited about it as India are a quality team and there’s no doubt they’ve got match-winners throughout their line-up.
“I said from the very start, whoever we play, we’re going to have to be somewhere near our very best to beat them but that’s the excitement, that’s the challenge in front of us.
“Hopefully, you’ll see what Kiwis are made of out there and our never-say-die attitude; we will stand up when we need to. There are no second chances now, are there?
“People aren’t expecting us to win and from my point of view, I think that’s a good place to be because if that’s the case, we can go out there and play with some real freedom.”