T20: The Kiwis take over Afghanistan

New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 11 balls remaining.

Afghanistan 124/8

New Zealand 125/2

New Zealand was methodical. This is probably unsurprising given that they have already reached the semi-finals of four World Cups in a succession. They needed a win to guarantee their position in the last four, so they came up with a game-winning powerplay. Kane Williamson rotated his three fast bowlers – Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Adam Milne – through the opening six overs. During the fielding limitations, they each took a wicket and helped reduce Afghanistan to fewer than four runs each over.

Afghanistan recovered marginally thanks to a half-century from Najibullah Zadran, but except from one 19-run over against Mitchell Santner, they never really got going after that disastrous start. They spluttered their way to 124 for 8 and defending it was always going to be a chore.

New Zealand went to 45 for 1 at the conclusion of their powerplay, and then Kane Williamson and Devon Conway walked to the finish, their undefeated 68-run stand eating up 56 balls as the team triumphed with 11 balls to spare.

When Afghanistan opted to bat first, they relied on their attack, with mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman returning to the squad after recovering from injury. They needed a good hitting Powerplay, and they couldn’t have done much worse. Hazratullah Zazai was caught at short midwicket by Trent Boult. Tim Southee soon had Rahmanullah Gurbaz pinned. Afghanistan was 23 for 3 after six overs, with only three boundaries.

Despite the slow start, Afghanistan rallied marginally in the middle session, thanks to a 37-run combination between Zadran and Naib, followed by a 59-run partnership between Najibullah and Mohammad Nabi. They couldn’t, however, shoot at the dead.

It didn’t take much chasing to find it. New Zealand did not appear hurried at any moment. Afghanistan needed a couple more wickets in the Powerplay if they were to truly push New Zealand. Instead, Kane Williamson came out and walked to 40 not out off 42 balls, nearly never taking a risk, working the singles, and scoring just the rare boundary. Conway’s stay was less certain, but he got it to 36 not out off 32 balls despite nicking a ball early in his innings.

The whole affair went off without a hitch.