In less than 96 hours after they beat reigning World Champions England, Afghanistan got a solid reality check from a ruthless New Zealand, which recorded a thumping 149-run victory in a thoroughly one-sided World Cup match in Chennai on Wednesday. As a result of this conquest, the Black Caps remain unbeaten in the event so far, taking the top spot again with its fourth straight victory. Chasing a tough target of 289 on a spinner-friendly wicket at Chepauk, Afghanistan could manage only 139 in 34.4 overs. The Afghans found Lockie Ferguson’s (3/19 in 7 overs) pace too hot to handle and had no answers for Mitchell Santner’s (3/39 in 7.4 overs) deliveries, which at times, turned a mile.
This was after triple half-centuries from Will Young (54), Tom Latham (68) and Glenn Phillips (71) ensured that New Zealand put up a winning total of 288/6 in 50 overs.
While chasing, Afghanistan were down to 43 for 3 by the 14th over, with skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi (8) being the third man to be dismissed, with Ferguson having his number.
Then, the pair of Rahmat Shah (36) and Azmatullah Omarzai (27) took brief control of the chase, putting on a 54-run stand for the fourth wicket.
However, the New Zealanders already had the upper hand, and with the ball turning, they hardly allowed them to score freely.
In the 26th over, pacer Trent Boult got the partnership broken, getting rid of Omarzai.
Thereon, the Afghans barely had any answers as they lost wickets at regular intervals.
Earlier, New Zealand recovered well from a mini mid-innings slump to post a commendable total. However, a total of five dropped catches did make things a bit hard for the Afghans, especially Rashid, who saw a couple of his chances go abegging.
Young , Latham and Phillips’ half-centuries ensures that the Black Caps posted an above-par total on a track where stroke-making wasn’t an easy proposition.
Phillips and Latham put on 144 invaluable runs for the fifth wicket and it could well prove to be a game-changer.
Put into bat first, the Kiwis lost opener Devon Conway (20) in the seventh over, with spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman trapping him leg-before.
However, the pair of opener Young and in-form batter Rachin Ravindra (32) took charge and put on a convincing 79-run stand for the second wicket.
A chance to stump Ravindra was missed, whereas spinner Mohammad Nabi was put under pressure by the Black Caps batters, as he was attacked quite regularly.
Eventually, it was pacer Azmatullah Omarzai who got the partnership broken in the 21st over, cleaning up Ravindra off a straight delivery, as the batter attempted to swing it towards mid-wicket, but missed it completely in the process.
It was at this moment the New Zealanders had a brief collapse, losing Young and Daryl Mitchell (1) by the 22nd over to Omarzai and spinner Rashid Khan, respectively, as the score read 110 for four.
While Young had already scored his seventh ODI half-century, he was notably dropped in the second over by Rahmat Shah off Fazalhaq Farooqi.
Nevertheless, New Zealand managed to recover soon as skipper Latham and Phillips put up another fine stand that defined the tone for the rest of their innings.
The duo also brought up their respective 23rd and third ODI half-centuries each, despite the Afghani bowlers keeping the Kiwi scoring rate in check.
As the pair began upping the ante and the scoring rate post the 45th over, the partnership was broken by pacer Naveen-ul-Haq in the 48th, with both the set batters departing in the same over.
But, there was still some work to be done, and it was Mark Chapman (25 not out) who came up with some late blitz, including two fours and a six, to ensure that the Black Caps went past the 275-run mark on this track.
For Afghanistan, Omarzai and Naveen were the stars with the ball, seizing a couple of wickets each, whereas Rashid was a no-brainer with his economical spell.
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