New Zealand made a mockery of claims that they could struggle against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi. They registered a thumping eight-wicket victory in match 40 of the T20 World Cup 2021 to book their place in the semis. New Zealand’s win put paid to India’s slim qualification hopes, whose game against Namibia on Monday will now be a dead rubber.
Asked to bowl first after losing the toss, New Zealand did an excellent job of restricting Afghanistan to 124-8. Najibullah Zadran slammed a brilliant 73 off 48 balls, but Afghanistan’s other batters struggled in the wake of some impressive bowling. Trent Boult (3-17) and Tim Southee (2-14) starred with the ball as New Zealand never let Afghanistan off the hook.
Chasing a modest target of 125, New Zealand did not face any trouble as they romped home in 18.1 overs. Captain Kane Williamson (40* off 42) and Devon Conway (36* off 32) featured in an unbroken third-wicket stand of 68 to shepherd the chase.
The Kiwis eased their way to 50 in seven overs for the loss of only one wicket. Daryl Mitchell hit three boundaries in the first three overs before perishing to Mujeeb Ur Rahman’s carrom ball for 17. The New Zealand batter tried to open the face against a good-length delivery, but only managed to edge the ball behind the stumps.
Martin Guptill looked edgy against Mujeeb. However, after surviving a few false shots, he smashed the last two balls of the powerplay for boundaries. A short ball that sat up was pulled through midwicket, while an overpitched one was driven between mid-off and extra cover.
Guptill (28) ended up becoming Rashid Khan’s 400th T20 victim when he was cleaned up attempting a slog sweep. At 61-2 at the halfway stage, though, New Zealand were in control of their chase.
There was a massive moment in the 11th over when Devon Conway possibly nicked a delivery outside off from Hamid Hassan. There was no appeal from Afghanistan, but snicko clearly showed a spike as the ball went past the bat.
Meanwhile, Williamson played his trademark flicks and drives to keep New Zealand in control. At the other end, Conway brought out his sweeps and reverse sweeps as the Kiwis got ever closer to booking their semi-final spot. Conway completed the formalities, punching Gulbadin Naib down to long-on.
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Najibullah Zadran slams 73, but Boult’s three-for restricts Afghanistan to 124-8
Afghanistan got off to a horrible start, stumbling to 23 for 3 in the powerplay. Mohammad Shahzad (4) was the first to go. He miscued an attempted uppercut off Adam Milne, and was brilliantly caught by wicketkeeper Conway, who dived to his right to pull off a one-handed catch.
Hazratullah Zazai fell for two, presenting a leading edge off a Boult short ball to midwicket. Southee then trapped Rahmanullah Gurbaz (6) plumb in front of the stumps when the batter missed his flick against a full and straight delivery.
Zadran found a few boundaries to bring some rhythm to the Afghanistan innings. However, Ish Sodhi struck in his first over to hurt the batting side. Naib dragged a short and wide ball from the leg-spinner onto his stumps to perish for 15. At the halfway stage, Afghanistan were 56 for 4.
Zadran lifted the batting side by whacking Mitchell Santner for two sixes in the 14th over. The first one was slammed right over the bowler’s head, while the second clobbered over midwicket. Zadran brought up an impressive fifty off 33 balls, and continued to counterattack.
In the 18th over bowled by Southee, Zadran lofted a slower ball for six over long-off before top-edging a four to fine leg. Mohammad Nabi (14), though, fell in the same over, chipping a back-of-a-length delivery to the bowler.
Trying to take on Boult in the next over, Zadran saw his innings come to an end, as an attempted big hit was smartly held by James Neesham at long-off. Karim Janat (2) became Boult’s third victim in the same over when he flicked a full delivery on leg straight to deep fine leg.
Neesham bowled a brilliant last over, conceding only two. He could have been hit for six first ball by Rashid Khan. However, Mitchell leapt and took a one-handed catch near the boundary.
Knowing he was going to fall over the ropes, he flicked the ball back into play, thus saving four runs. Khan then failed to get a run off the next four deliveries, which were a mixture of low full tosses and yorkers, before he was caught off the last ball.
New Zealand vs Afghanistan: Who won the Player of the Match in today's T20 World Cup 2021 match?
All New Zealand bowlers did a great job against Afghanistan. Boult stood out with 3 for 17. He got the big wicket of Zazai early, and came back to end Zadran’s innings. Southee also impressed with figures of 2 for 24, dismissing Gurbaz and Nabi.
For Afghanistan, Zadran played a lone hand, scoring a sparkling 73 off 48 balls. However, Trent Boult was picked as the Player of the Match for his game-defining bowling performance.
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