Cricket: Kane Williamson poised to return for Blackcaps' crucial World Cup clash with South Africa

Blackcaps captain Kane Williamson appears on track to return from a thumb injury in Wednesday's (NZ time) crucial World Cup match against South Africa.

Williamson suffered a broken thumb in his side's win over Bangladesh more than two weeks ago, forcing him to sit out the side's last three matches.

Williamson is back hitting cricket balls in the nets, which coach Gary Stead says is an "encouraging" sign, before their seventh World Cup match at Pune.

Kane Williamson at training.
Kane Williamson at training. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It was just low-level intensity, but he will train tomorrow [Monday] and the next day, with a view to potentially being available for this game," said Stead. "That will depend just how he comes through in the next couple of days."

Should Williamson be cleared to play, he'll likely replace opening batter Will Young in the starting XI. New Zealand have suffered back-to-back defeats against India and Australia, both matches coming at further cost to the squad.

Lockie Ferguson limped off the field with an Achillies injury, after bowling just three overs, during their narrow five-run defeat to Australia, while Mark Chapman pulled up with a calf niggle in training before the match.

Stead has already ruled them out of their next clash against the Proteas.

"[Ferguson] has woken up feeling a little bit better than certainly what he has, but he will be getting a scan tomorrow morning here in Pune.

"We're hopeful it's maybe something about just a week in terms of return to play. It's something that he's had in the past its niggled away, but this has just flared up again at perhaps a bad time for him.

Stead's prognosis for Chapman is slightly more encouraging, with the chance he'll be ready to go on Wednesday.

"We're unsure at this stage whether he will play in the next game or be available, but he's progressed well and he's not far away from being selectable again," he added.

The Blackcaps have South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka left to play in the World Cup group stage, and will likely need to win at least one - if not two – of those fixtures to advance to the semi-finals.

Ferguson's absence opens the door for veteran seam bowler Tim Southee to return to the starting XI, while Jimmy Neesham is likely to fill in for Chapman, as he did so impressively against Australia.

Join Newshub at 9:30pm Wednesday for live updates of the Blackcaps v South Africa World Cup match