Afghanistan have fought well so far in this tournament. They gave a good account of themselves against Australia and bowled brilliantly against Sri Lanka in their second game. The biggest problem so far for Afghanistan has been their batting. The batters are not able to string up good scores to compliment their good bowling performances. Afghanistan have now also lost their big hitting opener Mohammad Shahzad to injury which further weakens their batting.
The bowling attack though so far has been all spin. Even though the new ball bowlers have bowled steadily they haven’t been able to get breakthrough with the new ball. They do have Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi though who have been brilliant for them so far. But for Afghanistan to make an impact their batting needs to click, which means that the top order need to take some responsibility with the bat and not through their wickets away.
New Zealand though have had a wonderful start to the tournament. After brushing Sri Lanka aside easily in their first game, they got a hard fought win against a good Bangladesh side. Their bowling has been doing good with both Matt Henry and Trent Boult doing well with the new ball. Their support bowling of Lockie Ferguson and the two all-rounders has been good as well so far. Mitchell Santner who has been playing as the lone spinner has done well as well. The batting is always the strength of the Black Caps. Martin Guptill, Colin Munro had one good game and the middle order of captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor has been in brilliant form.
Head to Head:
New Zealand have played only once against Afghanistan and have won that game. Like all other teams they will be taking on Afghanistan for the first time in a world cup game.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): Rashid Khan is Afghanistan’s best bowler. A brilliant white ball cricketer who is an all round package. A brilliant bowler with an ODI bowling average of just 15.5 with an economy rate of under 4 an over. He is a good lower order hitter as well with an average of 22. He is a crucial cog in Afghanistan bowling attack and will again be expected to set the tone in the field.
Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan): Being a senior all rounder Nabi is expected to guide this inexperienced team in their first World Cup. Nabi who has been in good bowling form has been little short of runs with the bat. In a struggling batting line up Mohammad Nabi would be looking to contribute more with the bat this time. Nabi averages 28 with the bat and 31 with the ball and will be looking to repeat his bowling performance against Sri Lanka once again here at the Taunton.
Ross Taylor (New Zealand): Even though Kane Williamson gets all the attention in the New Zealand batting line up, over the past couple of years Ross Taylor has been their best batsman in all formats. With an average of 48.5 and a SR of 84 he is one of the leading batsman in the world and he has been in excellent form in this world cup. He did well in the warm up games and also played the all important innings of 82 in New Zealand’s win over Bangladesh.
Trent Boult (New Zealand): Like Ross Taylor, Trent Boult is one of the leading bowlers in the world and New Zealand’s best at the moment. He has been in brilliant ball and has been getting lots of swing with the new ball and has been getting wickets in the world cup so far. He is always a threat with the new ball and against a team who has been struggling he can be lethal.
What they said?
“I’d love to see [just] one ball in ODI cricket to be honest,” Boult said. “I think any reverse swing at the end can really help any death bowler, the margin for error becomes slightly bigger and the hitting zone is a little bit smaller. I’m not sure where it’s going to get to but the invention of slower balls and knuckle balls and two bouncers and all that carry on has given a couple of cards up the sleeves.”
“If you look at the last game against Sri Lanka, we missed a lot of things at the start of the match and also starting our innings on the batting side,” Naib said. “We just need a good start if you bowl or if you bat, so we keep the momentum for 10 overs at the start. If we do this, maybe it’s easier for us.”
New Zealand XI:
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wkt), Colin de Grandhomme, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson
Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zarzai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadram, Rashid Khan, Ikram Ali Khil, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Taunton is a small ground and an international game is being played here after 20 years. India in 1999 smashed 373 against Sri Lanka on this ground. With small boundaries and a flat pitch there will be lots of runs on offer for both the teams. The bowling and fielding will be crucial in this and New Zealand with the superior batters will surely be the one with the edge and are expected to get their third win in a row.