Dhaka: New Zealand are hoping the return of skipper Daniel Vettori can inspire the team to victory over South Africa on Friday and take the Black Caps to a sixth World Cup semifinal.
Vettori strained ligaments in his right knee against Pakistan and missed New Zealand's final two group games, including last Friday's heavy defeat by Sri Lanka.
The 32-year-old allrounder told reporters on Thursday he "should be fine" for Friday's quarterfinal. Wearing strapping on his knee, Vettori later took part in a training session at Sher-E-Bangla Stadium, missing a warmup game of rugby but staying behind afterwards to practice his bowling with Nathan McCullum.
New Zealand is also set to be boosted by the return of paceman Kyle Mills after a calf strain and Vettori said opening batsman and wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum will continue to play through a knee problem.
Friday's game could be Vettori's last as captain of the one-day side. The veteran of 270 ODIs intends to give up the captaincy of the one-day and Twenty20 sides after the tournament, and he is reportedly considering retiring from limited-overs internationals altogether.
The left-arm spinner's return against South Africa could be crucial to New Zealand. In thrashing West Indies at the same ground on Wednesday, Pakistan's three spinners combined to take 8-64, and South Africa's slow bowlers were central in bowling out Bangladesh for 78 on Saturday.
Vettori was more concerned that New Zealand's hit-and-miss batsmen deliver on Friday.
"They will be the key to our success," he said. "We played our best game against Pakistan (in the group stage) when our batting fired, we got a guy through to a hundred, and had a couple of crucial partnerships through it. We've been at our worst when those things haven't happened."
Ross Taylor's unbeaten 131 helped New Zealand post a total of 302 against Pakistan, with 100 of those runs coming off a destructive last five overs.
Vettori said he wasn't frustrated by the batsmen's failure against Australia, when they were all out for 206, and Sri Lanka (153 all out), but excited about their potential against South Africa.
"It's not frustration, it's always looking forward to the next game, realizing that these guys can do it," he said. "They're extremely talented and what better time to rectify a couple of tough performances than now.
"We've seen the gameplan that works against Pakistan — build a total and be able to unleash at the end — and if we get a guy like Ross Taylor, Scott Styris or Jacob Oram in those last 10 overs with wickets in hand then we know we can be dangerous."
New Zealand, which starts the match as underdogs against the in-form South Africa, also know they have beaten the Proteas at the last two World Cups.
"South Africa have been one of the form teams for some time, so we know they're going to be a huge challenge," Vettori said. "They've got good players up and down their order. (But) it's about what we do tomorrow. If we play well we give ourselves a chance. If not then it's going to be tough."