Melinda Farrell at Old Trafford

Nice guys finish last. We all know that, yeah? It's an incontrovertible truth, in life and in sport.

Another incontrovertible truth is that New Zealand are a team of nice guys. It's become a cliche, a truism that extends to those around them. All of the people around the team are nice. Even the Kiwi journalists on tour are super, irresistibly… nice.

It's such a dismissive, if genuinely affectionate, word. Australia famously - or infamously - used it as a put-down during the last World Cup, the one in which the nice guys came last in the final. And, if you've listened to former players, commentators and fans who support any other team in this World Cup, as the final pieces of the semi-final jigsaw fell unexpectedly into place on the final day of the group stage, almost everyone agreed that the easiest route to Lord's was via New Zealand at Old Trafford. As the final Australian wicket fell against South Africa you could almost hear the knowing pronouncements of a fait accompli: so who will India meet in the final? Amirite?

Even Sachin Tendulkar chimed in with some subtle (or not) trolling, wishing MS Dhoni a happy birthday and his best wishes for the next two matches.

When told of Tendulkar's tweet, Gary Stead gave a wry chuckle.

"I'm sure he would do that," the New Zealand coach said. "I didn't know that but hopefully we have a "birthday" coming up and he wishes one of our guys it too."

Stead and his players are quite happy so many people have written them off. After a couple of days' rest the squad has regrouped, refreshed, in Manchester, and the glare of expectation is all on the opposition.

Martin Guptill's corner in the dressing room IDI via Getty Images
"I hope everyone thinks that," Stead said, speaking after the team's arrival at Old Trafford. "Look, I mean you get to this stage of the tournament because we've been here for a month and a half playing cricket.

"I'm not spending a lot of time worrying about what other people are thinking, whether we should be here or not."

Ah, yes. He hears you, Pakistan fans. The heated hoo-ha over the fairness, or lack thereof, involved with using NRR, and the arguments that New Zealand lost against two of their fellow semi-finalists and didn't play the third because of a "fortunate" washout have been bandied about loudly. And, of course, New Zealand do come into this match as the lowest-placed qualifier, something Lockie Ferguson, fully recovered from the hamstring tightness that kept him out of the loss to England, acknowledges.

"It's an interesting one," Ferguson said. "I guess in World Cups, obviously big games get pumped up, and where we stand is the fourth going into the semi-finals so naturally I guess they back India. But as New Zealanders we are often the underdogs and I guess that's a position we like to be in and it's knockout cricket now, so it's all on Tuesday and the better team will go through."

There it is again - if New Zealand were ever a headline act at Glastonbury, you feel they'd offer to play in a small side tent, to give everyone else a go. But both Stead and Ferguson gave an insight into how they view themselves and how they want to be perceived by those who matter.

"As a team we definitely want to be the scrappers and guys that scrap for wins and not always do we win pretty," Ferguson said. "We kind of pride ourselves on coming back from tough situations and scrap our way out of it and give ourselves an opportunity to win.

"I think throughout this comp we've proven that many a time and sometimes it's not gone our way, which is part of tournament cricket and part of the World Cup, but Tuesday, definitely, that's going to be our attitude and I think having been with the team a few years now, we look forward to opportunities where we can fight, I guess, and show a bit of scrap and I'm sure Tuesday will be no different."

Lockie Ferguson looks on in the field PA Images
Stead hoped the lack of attention on his players would allow them to play with freedom.

"There's no second chances now, are there?" he said. "People aren't expecting us to win, and from my point of view I think that's a good place to be in.

"If that's the case we can go out there and hopefully play with some real freedom. Maybe the level of expectation is more on India than what it is on New Zealand.

"Hopefully you'll see what Kiwis are made of out there as well, that "no die" attitude, and I guess stand up when we need to.

"The next two days is about that balance, being ready and not overdoing it. We want to be fresh and come out and fire some shots against India."

Everything else about New Zealand's preparation seems calm and lowkey. Stead admitted that, yes, their batting has sometimes let them down ("we've struggled a wee bit") and deftly dealt with questions about Martin Guptill's form ("He might have a hundred in him the next game.") while hosing down speculation of a reshuffle ("I don't think we'll be doing anything drastic.")

There was only a handful of journalists on hand to witness all this; India had a travel day and so didn't train or front up to the media. That will change on what they call Match Day Minus One. Because the real stars of this show will have rolled into town with the enormous entourage that follows them everywhere; this is just one more dance on the way to the big finale. Amirite?

Oh. Just one more question, Lockie. Can you prove that nice guys can finish first?

Ferguson laughs. "Yes! For sure."