In the wake of a seismic upset during the 2023 World Cup, where Afghanistan triumphed over the defending champions, England, on Sunday, there was a fleeting sense of optimism as they eyed the possibility of unsettling the 2019 runners-up, New Zealand.
However, the encounter showcased New Zealand’s distinctive blend of professionalism and seasoned expertise, solidifying their unblemished record and clinching a remarkable four victories out of four in the tournament.
New Zealand 288 for 6 beat Afghanistan 139 by 149 runs
At the commencement of their batting innings, New Zealand, initially cruising at 109 for 1 in the 21st over, suddenly found themselves in a less-than-ideal position at 110 for 4 within nine balls. The equilibrium, however, was restored by captain Tom Latham and the versatile Glenn Phillips, orchestrating a remarkable resurgence with a 144-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
New Zealand vs Afghanistan Highlights
Their efforts were complemented by Afghanistan’s fielding lapses, with six opportunities five catches, and a run-out going astray as New Zealand compiled a formidable total of 288 for 6.
In the pursuit, Mitchell Santner and Lockie Ferguson continued their impressive form, clinching three wickets each as Afghanistan’s batting line-up crumbled.
While Rahmat Shah and Azmatullah Omarzai displayed some resistance, Afghanistan’s last five wickets tumbled for a mere 14 runs in 24 balls, culminating in their dismissal for 139. The comprehensive victory not only bolstered New Zealand’s net run rate significantly but also reaffirmed their dominance at the pinnacle of the points table.
On a humid Wednesday afternoon, Afghanistan’s decision to bowl first raised eyebrows, but it was their fielding lapses that proved more detrimental. Fazalhaq Farooqi had an early chance to dismiss Will Young, finding the outside edge on just his fourth ball, but Rahmat Shah at wide slip failed to secure what should have been a routine catch to his left. Young, with just 1 run at the time, went on to amass 54.
Despite Young’s initial struggles, Devon Conway took charge with a series of captivating fours. Young regained his rhythm, lofting Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman over long-on. The bowler, however, responded by dismissing Conway, who was initially given not out by the on-field umpire. The decision, upon referral, favored Afghanistan.
Rachin Ravindra, slow to start with 13 balls to get off the mark, received a lifeline when Hashmatullah Shahidi dropped a straightforward catch at midwicket. Ravindra capitalized on the opportunity, forming a brisk 79-run partnership for the second wicket with Young.
Following a moderate first powerplay, both batsmen unleashed their attacking prowess. They targeted Mohammad Nabi, dispatching him for a six each in the 13th over before Young struck again in the 15th. Young achieved his second consecutive fifty off 57 balls with an exquisite cut off Rashid Khan, propelling New Zealand past the 100-run mark in the 19th over.
Afghanistan appeared to be running out of options until Shahidi turned to Omarzai, and the medium-fast bowler delivered instant results. Ravindra’s attempt at a cross-batted swat resulted in his middle stump being flattened. Just four balls later, Young succumbed to a remarkable one-handed catch by wicketkeeper Ikram Alikhil.
Pushing at a wide-length ball outside off, Young could only manage a thin inside edge. Alikhil’s impeccable anticipation saw him move to his left and execute a one-handed stunner just inches from the turf. Rashid then dismissed Daryl Mitchell, contributing to a sudden downturn in New Zealand’s innings within nine balls.
The ball began to exhibit increased turn, and the pacers found additional movement. Afghanistan conceded a mere 29 runs in the ten overs between 21 and 30, claiming two fours and three crucial wickets.
Amidst these developments, Latham and Phillips held their ground. Despite a few tense moments, the duo adhered to the fundamentals. It was the over following the drinks break when they opted for a more aggressive approach.
Latham deftly paddled Mujeeb fine past the stumps, and Phillips sent Nabi over deep midwicket. Even then, New Zealand reached only 185 for 4 after 40 overs. However, the game took a turn when Afghanistan dropped two crucial catches.
Latham was initially let off the hook by Mujeeb in the 41st over at short fine leg, followed by Shahidi dropping a straightforward chance at short cover in the 43rd, both off Rashid. New Zealand seized the opportunity, capitalizing on these lapses.
They amassed 103 runs in the last ten overs, surpassing the 280 mark. Mark Chapman played his part with an unbeaten 12-ball 25, contributing to New Zealand’s late surge.
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