New Zealand sit at the top of the Cricket World Cup table, with three wins from three matches, after defeating Afghanistan by seven wickets at Taunton.
After Afghanistan made a blistering start in the first powerplay, Jimmy Neesham (5-31) and Lockie Ferguson (4-37) trailblazed through Afghanistan’s batting line up, and Afghanistan were bowled 172 all out.
The Black Caps lost openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro early on, but the Kiwis still cruised to their target, with only three wickets lost and more than 17 overs to spare.
As we have come to expect, Afghanistan came out all guns blazing at the beginning of the innings.
The injury to wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammed Shahzad has meant that Hazratullah Zazai had Noor Ali as his new opening partner.
They both blasted boundaries in the first powerplay to leave them 61-0 from the first ten overs.
On another greentop pitch and with the overcast conditions, many would call this a bowlers’ paradise.
Neesham and Ferguson stepped out of the shadows of new-ball bowlers Matt Henry and Trent Boult, reducing Afghanistan from 66-0 to 70-4. After some breaks for rainy showers, the pair made it 109-6.
The usually impressive Rashid Khan was not able to bowl due a to head injury incurred from batting, when he was hit on the helmet by a short ball from Ferguson, which ricocheted onto the stumps, to bowl him out for a duck.
The one ray of sunshine for Afghanistan was the innings of Hashmatullah Shahidi. With his spirited 59, he reached his eighth half-century in ODIs and showed the ability to stay in which Afghanistan will need more of in their upcoming games.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson played a captain’s innings with 79 not out from 99 balls. He and Ross Taylor (48) made a partnership of 89 for the third wicket, effectively securing victory for their team long before sun set in this day-nighter.
New Zealand did score slowly which might affect their net run rate at the end of the group stage in the competition for the top four spots.
Afghanistan are the fairytale story of cricket. They have risen the ranks rapidly in international cricket, from the associate nations level through to being promoted to Test status.
They have thoroughly earned their place at this tournament. Many predicted that the Afghans would pull off at least one shock victory at this World Cup. Whether they get that Cinderella victory remains to be seen.
New Zealand have made the perfect start to the tournament. They now have some tough challenges awaiting them in their next fixtures, beginning with India on Thursday 13th June 2019 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
All images courtesy of ICC Cricket World Cup Twitter account