New Zealand face tricky Afghan challenge on their belated World Cup entry - Cricket News | Cricket Updates | Match Report

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Thursday, June 6, 2024

New Zealand face tricky Afghan challenge on their belated World Cup entry

 Afghanistan picked up a facile win in their first game.

Afghanistan picked up a facile win in their first game. © Getty

Thirteen matches into the World Cup, New Zealand's campaign is just about to begin. While the Black Caps have waited to get going in Guyana, at least five teams have completed two group games, some sides have been surprised by the varied challenges posed by the conditions, the ICC has publicly acknowledged pitch concerns in New York and the USA have downed Pakistan. The challenge for Kane Williamson and Co. is that they will have to hit the ground running against an opponent that warmed-up to the tournament with a dominant, run-rate boosting win at this very venue.

Afghanistan might already be one of the popular choices for cricket fans' 'second-favourite' team given how improbable their journey has been in getting as far as they have as a cricketing force. They enhanced that reputation with a stunning show in the ODI World Cup in India six months ago. Now in the abridged T20 format, one their players go around the world playing and even headlining, they will like nothing more than to rubber-stamp this rise by progressing past the group stage.

Which is what lends this match, and Group C by extension, a tasty narrative. In a group with three clear contenders fighting for two Super 8 spots, and where two of those sides are facing each other at the start, there is not much room for error or bad luck. A win over New Zealand, one of those few big teams that Afghanistan didn't dent in October-November last year, could put them in pole position for qualification and leave the Black Caps scrambling and even hoping for other teams to help them out.

But what separates New Zealand from most other participating countries in this competition is adaptability. They've been semifinalists or runners-up in each of the last five white-ball World Cups in conditions as varied as India, UAE, England and Australia. They have variety in skills and the tactical nous to make little adjustments on the go. It is what Afghanistan will have to match and counter.

When: New Zealand vs Afghanistan, 11.30 PM GMT (June 6), 7.30 PM Local (June 6), 5.00 AM IST (June 7)

Where: Providence Stadium, Guyana

What to expect:A thunderstorm forecast to hit Georgetown on the morning of the match, but there's only a 30 percent chance for rain during the match hours in the night. Guyana has thrown up a range of conditions. Afghanistan have played here already and scored 183 but the most recent contest here between PNG and Uganda saw a combined scoring rate of 4.13 - the lowest ever in a men's T20 World Cup match.

Head to Head in T20 World Cups: New Zealand 1 - 0 Afghanistan. The Black Caps won the only contest between the sides in this format when they squared off in Abu Dhabi three years ago.

Team Watch:

New Zealand

The Black Caps will welcome, among others, the return of captain Williamson and opener Devon Conway to the line-up. They will have a choice on their hands to play a wrist spinner in Ish Sodhi or beef up their line-up with an additional batter and potentially a seam-bowling all-rounder in James Neesham, who has substantial experience of conditions playing regularly in the CPL.

Tactics & Matchups: Trent Boult continued to be impressive in the first overs during IPL 2024 and Afghanistan's openers, who put on 154 against Uganda, will be in for quite a challenge with swing expected to be a factor once more.

Probable XI: Finn Allen, Devon Conway (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Philipps, Mark Chapman, Mitchell Santner, Trent Boult, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Ish Sodhi/James Neesham

Afghanistan

Tactics & Matchups: Left-arm seam has been quite troublesome for the New Zealand top-order with Finn Allen being dismissed by the type as many as 15 times in T20Is since January 2022. The corresponding number for Conway and Williamson is 5 and 4 respectively.

Probable XI: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran,Azmatullah Omarzai, Gulbadin Naib, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Karim Janat, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi

Did you know?

- New Zealand have won only two of their last eight men's T20Is after winning five in a row prior to that stretch.

- Glenn Phillips has struck at 193.71 SR in overs 16-20 in T20Is since Jan 2022 but Najibullah Zadran has scored even faster, at 197.97 SR

- Rashid Khan and Ish Sodhi both have 25 wickets in T20 World Cups but the Afghan's economy of 6.16 slightly betters Sodhi's 7.04.

What they said:

"I suppose any player that gets deeper into their career and perhaps some of those opportunities naturally become less, But the same thing is just our approach to it. What gives us the best chance? There are no promises. There's obviously good intentions and hopes and dreams, and so many teams have the same ones. And so, it comes back to that cricket, what we're trying to do as a group, and really put your attention and focus into that and see what unfolds." - Kane Williamson, New Zealand Captain, on if his illustrious career deserves a white-ball trophy too.

"I think we saw in the 50-over World Cup we're able to compete with any side in the world. And that's our philosophy here. So, every game that we play, we expect to put ourselves in a winning position. Or fight to win every single game." - Jonathan Trott, Afghanistan Head Coach, on if his side has enough ammunition to take down a side like New Zealand.

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