London: It was all very straightforward at County Ground Taunton on Saturday, 8 June, with New Zealand coasting to their third victory of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 by seven wickets against Afghanistan.
It meant New Zealand cemented their spot at the top of the standings, while Afghanistan remain at the bottom. Afghanistan also suffered an injury worry, with Rashid Khan sitting out most of the match after taking a blow to the helmet off Lockie Ferguson. A statement was later released saying that he did not take the field due to a precautionary measure.
The match itself was routine. Afghanistan started well after being put in, with Hazratullah Zazai and Noor Ali Zadran adding 66 for the opening wicket, quashing doubts over the detrimental effect of Mohammad Shahzad’s injury.
However, in the 11th over, everything changed. Jimmy Neesham had Zazai sent back for a 28-ball 34 – the all-rounder ended with career-best figures 5/31. Noor Ali Zadran (31) and Rahmat Shah fell in the two overs after that, as Afghanistan lost three without adding a run. A brief rain interlude seemed to aid the fast bowlers too.
Hashmatullah Shahidi, with some adventurous hitting, scored a valiant 99-ball 59, but everyone else fell for single-digit scores, and Afghanistan were bundled out for 172 in 41.1 overs.
Their feeble hopes got a big boost when Martin Guptill was felled in the very first ball of the next innings. But the middle-order generals, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, put on 89 to snuff them out. Afghanistan's hopes weren’t helped by some sloppy fielding, and the better side claimed the day.