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T20 World Cup 2024: Afghanistan outplay NZ in Guyana, set 'Group of Death' alive

T20 World Cup 2024, AFG vs NZ: How Afghanistan find ways to beat New Zealand? New Zealand lost to Afghanistan by 84 runs.

T20 World Cup 2024, AFG vs NZ: How Afghanistan find ways to beat New Zealand? | Walking Wicket (Photo_ ©ACBofficials_X)
T20 World Cup 2024: Afghanistan beat New Zealand (Photo: ©ACBofficials/X)

In a ground-breaking performance, Afghanistan showcased their growing stature in international cricket by securing their first-ever T20 victory over New Zealand. This 85-run triumph, achieved at the Providence Stadium in Guyana, highlighted Afghanistan's mastery of slow tracks and their potential to challenge for the T20 World Cup title.

The match on June 7 in T20 World Cup 2024 which spilled into the early hours of June 8 in India, was a statement from Afghanistan. Their victory was built on a robust total of 159, a challenging score on a sluggish pitch that proved tricky for other teams in the tournament. This win propelled Afghanistan to the top of Group C, following a massive 125-run victory over Uganda in their opening match.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran’s partnership was key in Afghanistan’s batting

Afghanistan's innings was anchored by an extraordinary partnership between Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran. Their opening stand of 103 runs laid a solid foundation, exploiting New Zealand's uncharacteristically poor fielding. With this exceptional effort, the duo became the only pair to achieve this feat in the history of the T20 World Cup. 

Gurbaz, who scored 80 off 54 balls, was the standout performer. His innings was a blend of aggression and calculated risk, perfectly suited to the slow pitch of Providence Stadium. However, he got a lifeline early in the innings when Kiwi wicket-keeper Devon Conway missed a stumping off the bowling of left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner. This made a huge difference as Gurbaz eventually outscored New Zealand, possibly the only occasion where a player has outscored an opposition's team total in consecutive games of the T20 World Cup.

On the other end, Ibrahim Zadran’s 44 off 41 balls complemented Gurbaz’s aggression with stability. The pair capitalized on New Zealand's mistakes, including several dropped catches and missed run-out opportunities, particularly in the powerplay. Gurbaz and Zadran’s methodical approach ensured that Afghanistan reached a competitive total despite the slow surface. 

After the fall of the openers, Azmatullah Omarzai provided the late impetus with a brisk 22 off 13 balls. His quick-scoring helped Afghanistan edge closer to the 160 mark, setting a target that their bowlers defended. 

However, other batters failed to capitalise on the start provided by the openers for the second time in a row, which remains a concern. Trent Boult and Matt Henry were the pick of the New Zealand bowlers, taking two wickets each, but the damage was already done by the Afghan top order.

Nevertheless, Afghanistan has a couple of power hitters in their dugout, such as Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran. On their day, they can steal the game from the opposition, but their performance in the last two games has been an issue. 

The advantage for Afghanistan is that many of their players, including bowlers and top-order batters, have significant experience playing in similar conditions, particularly in the Caribbean Premier League. They understand how the pitch behaves and what lengths and lines need to be hit. The same applies to the batters.

AFG vs NZ: Fazalhaq Farooqi took 4-17 against New Zealand | Walking Wicket (Photo: ©ACBofficials_X)
Fazalhaq Farooqi took 4-17 against New Zealand (Photo: ©ACBofficials/X)
New Zealand lacked match practice, Afghanistan bowlers pounce  

New Zealand, who refused to play the warm-up games ahead of the tournament, looked rusty entering their first match. The absence of match practice and team bonding was evident as they struggled to find rhythm. Key players had skipped a preparatory tour of Bangladesh due to commitments in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, and the lack of cohesion showed.

Fazalhaq Farooqi, who became the first Afghan bowler to claim four-fers consecutively in T20 World Cups, once again set the tone for Afghanistan with the ball, dismissing Finn Allen for a duck on the first ball of the innings. He continued his excellent form, having taken five wickets against Uganda. His spell of 4/17 included crucial wickets of Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell, reducing New Zealand to 33 for 3 in the powerplay.

After the powerplay, captain Rashid Khan’s introduction into the attack was the turning point. The Afghan captain’s leg-spin proved too much for New Zealand’s middle order. Rashid’s spell of 4/16 included the wicket of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who was caught at slip for just 9. 

In the next over, Rashid picked two wickets in consecutive balls. Chapman went for a pull shot but lost his middle stump, and Bracewell was caught in front of the stumps with the review unable to save him. Mohammad Nabi also chipped in with two wickets, ensuring there was no respite for the Black Caps. 

New Zealand’s innings crumbled, with only Glenn Phillips (18) and Matt Henry (12) reaching double figures. The rest of the batters fell cheaply, unable to cope with the disciplined Afghan attack. Matt Henry and Trent Boult tried to avoid the inevitable, but Farooqi had the last laugh as Henry lost his patience, tried to whack a short delivery out of the ground, and lost his wicket.

Afghanistan continue flawless record in the tournament 

Afghanistan’s victory by 85 runs was not just historic but also a strategic master class. The team’s ability to adapt to slow pitches and exploit the conditions to their advantage was evident. Their spinners, led by Rashid Khan, have shown that they can be a formidable force, especially on pitches that offer turn and grip. 

This win also underscored the importance of match practice and team cohesion. New Zealand’s lack of preparation was starkly contrasted by Afghanistan’s readiness and strategic execution. The Black Caps’ decision to skip the warm-up matches and the Bangladesh tour backfired, leaving them unprepared for Afghanistan’s challenge.

With two wins from two matches, Afghanistan sits comfortably at the top of Group C. Their next encounters, against Papua New Guinea on June 13 in Trinidad and against co-hosts West Indies on June 17 in St Lucia, will be crucial. Another victory will almost certainly secure their place in the Super 8s, and their current form suggests they are more than capable of achieving this. 

As the tournament progresses, the spotlight will remain on Afghanistan’s ability to handle pressure and maintain their form. Their spinners will continue to be their trump card, especially on slow pitches, and their batting line-up has shown the capability to set and chase challenging targets. If they continue to play with the same intensity and tactical acumen, Afghanistan could very well be the dark horses of the T20 World Cup 2024.


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