It was the fifth straight victory for New Zealand. In each of their earlier wins, New Zealand has bowled out the opposition and it was the turn of Afghanistan in match no.31 on Sunday at Napier. After winning the toss, Afghanistan batted first and lost 6 wickets for 59 runs in the 20th over. Supported by Trent Boult and Corey Anderson from the other side, old guard Daniel Vettori weaved a band of magic from one end to return with figures of 4/18 in 10 overs. Samiullah Shenwari and Najibullah Zadran propped up Afghanistan to lend some respectability to the score but that couldn’t prevent the entire team from being bowled out for 186 in the 48th over. A chase of 187 was not expected to pose much problems for the attacking brand of New Zealand batting and they crossed the target in the 37th over for the loss of only 4 wickets.
Mohammad Nabi won the toss in the morning and decided to bat first. Trent Boult drew the first blood in the second over, when he trapped Javed Ahmadi plumb in front. McCullum had brought on Daniel Vettori early and that paid off instantly as the veteran New Zealander removed Usman Ghani in the third over by a beautiful delivery that sneaked between his bat and pad to find the wood behind him. Asghar Stanikzai was the next to go, when Boult lured him into making an uppish drive that landed in Guptill’s hand. In the 16th over, Vettori took his 300th ODI wicket with another beautiful delivery that pegged back Nawroz Mangal’s off stump as he shaped to cut the ball and missed. It was 49/4 for Afghanistan and it became 59/6 in the 20th over as Vettori took two more wickets.
Here onwards, two Afghani batsmen; Samiullah Shenwari and Najibullah Zadran began a damage-control operation with an 86-run seventh wicket stand. Shenwari is the one Afghan batsman, who is gifted with a fearless style and a lot of batting prowess. He found an ideal companion in Zadran and the two of them prodded along to frustrate New Zealand bowlers for a while. Finally Adam Milne broke the stand in the 39th over. Najibullah Zadran scored an exemplary 56 off 56 balls with 8 fours and 2 sixes. Vettori had his hand in Zadran’s dismissal as well, when the batsman was caught by him at the third man boundary. Soon afterwards, wickets began to fall once again and at 186 in the 48th over, Afghanistan were bowled out.
The victory target of 187 was not expected to trouble the formidable New Zealanders, who began with a bang as usual. McCullum blasted 42 off 19 balls with 6 fours and a six, while Martin Guptill watched from the other side. Then the captain departed at the score of 53 off 5.5 overs to leave the task for Guptill and Kane Williamson. Guptill discovered his old touch with a 76-ball 57 that included some forceful punches off the back foot and a few measured aerial shots. The second wicket partnership yielded 58 runs and the chase became simpler. Ross Taylor, who has also had a bad World Cup thus far, used the opportunity for some good effect and so did Grant Elliot. Though New Zealand lost 4 wickets, they were nonchalant as the target was met in the 37th over. In the end, the enthusiastic Afghanis were thoroughly outclassed by a team that looks like the strongest contender of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.