Lockie Ferguson is in “good shape” and expected to play in the World Cup semifinals, said New Zealand coach Gary Stead, who has put his faith on the tearaway quick to make the difference against India on Tuesday.
Ferguson, who has emerged as New Zealand’s leading wicket-taker in the tournament, had missed their last league match against hosts England at Chester-le-Street due to a hamstring strain.
“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,” Stead told reporters.
“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.”
The 28-year-old Ferguson has taken 17 wickets to sit joint-third in the list of bowlers with most wickets in the tournament.
“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,” Stead said.
“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.”
Martin Guptill has struggled with his form after starting the tournament with an unbeaten 73 against Sri Lanka and Stead said he expects the New Zealand opener to get back among runs soon.
“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.”
A hat-trick of losses in the final three league games mean the Black Caps are going into the semifinals as underdogs and Stead believes it will only allow his team to play with more freedom and show their never-say-die attitude.
“We’ve got a couple of afternoons to be ready for India now. 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,” he said.
“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.”
New Zealand had finished second best at the 2015 World Cup after losing to Australia in the final.
However, the Black Caps have lost six out of seven World Cup semifinals so far and Kane Williamson and his men will try to reach their second World Cup final Tuesday.
“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?” the New Zealand coach said.
“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.”