Recent Match Report – Afghanistan vs New Zealand 16th Match 2023/24

New Zealand 288 for 6 (Phillips 71, Latham 68, Naveen 2-48, Omarzai 2-56) beat Afghanistan 139 (Rahmat 36, Omarzai 27, Santner 3-39, Ferguson 3-19) by 149 runs

After causing a major stir in the 2023 World Cup by beating defending champions England on Sunday, Afghanistan briefly harboured hopes of upsetting the 2019 runners-up too. But the New Zealand brand of professionalism and experience came to the fore once more as they managed to keep their unbeaten record intact to make it four out of four in the competition.

Sent in to bat, New Zealand slipped from a comfortable 109 for 1 in the 21st over to a not-so-comfortable 110 for 4 in the space of nine balls. However, captain Tom Latham and the do-it-all man Glenn Phillips revived the innings with a 144-run stand for the fifth wicket. They were also helped by Afghanistan’s sloppiness in the field with as many as six chances – five catches and a run out – going a begging as New Zealand racked up 288 for 6.

Mitchell Santner and Lockie Ferguson then continued their excellent run of form with three wickets each as Afghanistan collapsed in a heap in the chase. Only Rahmat Shah and Azmatullah Omarzai put up a semblance of fight before Afghanistan lost their last five wickets for just 14 runs in 24 balls to be bowled out for 139 and go down by 149 runs in Chennai. The win not only gave New Zealand’s NRR a huge boost but also solidified their position at the top of the points table.

On a humid Wednesday afternoon, Afghanistan’s decision to bowl first raised eyebrows, but it was their efforts on the field that hurt them more. Fazalhaq Farooqi found Will Young’s outside edge on just his fourth ball of the day but Rahmat at wide slip failed to hang on to what was a regulation catch to his left. Young, on 1 at the time went on to score 54.

With Young struggling initially, it was Devon Conway who set the ball rolling with a few eye-catching fours. Young soon found his mojo as he lofted Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman over long-on. But the bowler soon exacted revenge, albeit on Conway, trapping the batter in front of the stumps. The decision referred upstairs after the on-field umpire gave it not out, went Afghanistan’s way.

Rachin Ravindra, who took 13 balls to get off the mark, got a life on 0 when Hashmatullah Shahidi dropped a straightforward catch at midwicket. He made sure to make Afghanistan pay as he added a brisk 79-run stand for the second wicket with Young.

Afghanistan looked bereft of options before Shahidi turned to Omarzai and the medium-fast bowler delivered right away. Ravindra missed a cross-batted swat to find his middle stump flattened while four balls later Young fell courtesy a stunning one-handed take by wicketkeeper Ikram Alikhil. Young pushed at a wide length ball outside off, but could only manage a thin inside edge. Alikhil’s anticipation was on point as he moved to his left and plucked out a one-handed stunner inches from the turf. Daryl Mitchell was then sent packing by Rashid as New Zealand’s innings turned upside down in nine balls.

The ball started turning that bit more, and the pacers also found movement. Afghanistan conceded only 29 runs in the ten overs between 21 and 30, which had just two fours and three wickets.

But, while all this was happening, Latham and Phillips held their own. There were a few nervy moments but the duo stuck to the basics well. It was the over after drinks when the two decided to take the more attacking route. Latham paddled Mujeeb fine past the stumps before Phillips took Nabi over deep midwicket. Even then, New Zealand could only reach 185 for 4 after 40 overs but two dropped catches turned the game their way.

Latham was put down by first by Mujeeb in the 41st over at short fine leg, before Shahidi put down a sitter at short cover in the 43rd, both off Rashid. And New Zealand took their chances. They wallopped 103 runs off the last ten overs to breach the 280-mark. Mark Chapman with an unbeaten 12-ball 25 did his bit as well.

Chasing 289, Afghanistan’s chase never really took flight. Trent Boult got the swing working for him from the get-go. He had both Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran in early strike but it was Matt Henry who drew first blood. Having just been pumped by Gurbaz straight over his head, the quick came back with a length back that seamed sharply back in breaching the batter’s defences and crashing into his stumps.

Two balls later it was Ibrahim’s turn to depart when he closed the face of the bat too early to a Boult scrambled-seam delivery and lobbed a simple catch to Santner at cover. Shahidi and Rahmat Shah took 47 balls for the 16-run stand which was ended by Santner’s worldie. Lockie Ferguson’s sharp bumper was fended awkwardly by Shahidi, but he seemed to have got enough bat on it to clear the fielder at square leg. Santner, though sprinted back, kept his eye on the ball before leaping with his outstretched left hand to complete a blinder.

Afghanistan were reduced to 43 for 3 after 14 with their chances getting slim. Rahmat and Omarzai did add a 54-run stand for the fourth wicket but at no point did New Zealand let the game drift.

The boundaries were hard to come by and even strike-rotation wasn’t always on point. Azmatullah somewhat broke the shackles in the 25th over with two fours but was accounted for by Boult in the very next ball and when Rahmat fell in the 29th over, the Afghanistan innings slid quickly.

Santner reached 100 ODI wickets by sending back Nabi with an absolute ripper before Ferguson removed Rashid and Mujeeb in the 34th over. Santner then closed the game in the 35th as New Zealand won comfortably.

Ashish Pant is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

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