Chennai, Oct 18: They have never won the ICC World Cup. Neither the ODI title, nor the T20 trophy. They have only one WTC Test Championship title to their credit. But in every ICC tournament, they are one of the most consistent sides in world cricket for decades.
On Wednesday, New Zealand team once again proved how to excel in trying conditions. Against a quality spin attack on the turning Chepauk track, here the Black Caps set a target of 289 before Afghanistan.
The highlight of Kiwis' batting performance was the triple 50s by their three key batters. Opener Will Young (54), captain Tom Latham (68) and all-rounder Glenn Phillips (71) did well to deny Afghanistan another spin-magic show.
Asked to bat first, New Zealand were 288/6 in the allotted 50 overs against Afghanistan in the 16th match of the ICC ODI World Cup 2023 at the Chepauk Stadium, here.
In reply, Afghanistan were 43/3 in 14 overs. Both their openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (11) and Ibrahim Zadran (14), as well as captain Hashmatullah Shahidi (8) were back in the pavilion. New Zealand pacers Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson claimed one wicket each.
Earlier, Afghan spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman removed attacking New Zealand opener Devon Conway for 20. Conway was LBW to a length ball that was quicker and fuller. Initially, the umpire turned down the appeal, but the Afghans got the decision in their favour after reviewing it.
Will Young and Rachin Ravindra built a solid second wicket partnership to ensure that Afghanistan spinners do not replicate what they did against England.
But their partnership did not last for long. Rachin (32) was bowled by Azmatullah Omarzai, while he was trying to play an ugly cross-batted shot.
In the same over, Azmatullah also claimed the other opener Will Young, who was caught by keeper Ikram Akhil. The keeper took a stunning catch diving to his left and Young had to depart after a fine 54 in 64 balls.
It was then up to seasoned Rashid Khan to get rid of danger-man Daryl Mitchell (1). He was caught by Ibrahim Zadran, and New Zeeland were suddenly reduced to 110/4 in 21.4 overs. The Kiwis lost three quick wickets in a span of only nine balls.
But then stand-in skipper Tom Latham and Glenn Phillips did well to ensure that the Kiwis cross the vital 200-mark in the turning pitch.
Glenn Phillips finally was claimed by right arm pacer Naveen-ul-Haq in the 48th over, caught by Rashid Khan. But his 71 in 80 balls, was very crucial from the New Zealand total point of view.
Naveen-ul-Haq in the same over also removed Lotham, who put a compact 68 (74 balls).
Afghanistan's decision to bowl first after winning the toss, in a hot and humid Chennai afternoon, did confuse some cricket experts.
Besides, in the spin-friendly track, the Asian team preferring the third pacer to spinner Nur Ahmed, again was bit surprising to some others.
On the contrary, from Afghanistan point of view, after beating 2019 champions England by 69 runs in Delhi on October 15, the Asian fighters seemed to be a very confident and jubilant bunch.
But the Black Caps like India, being unbeaten after three outings, did not let the situation to overpower them. They once again batted with controlled aggression. They applied themselves well and avoided a possible collapse after losing three quick wickets in a span of nine balls at one stage.
The Kiwis, in absence of their injured skipper Kan Williamson continued to be led by his deputy Tom Latham.
New Zealand XI
Devon Conway, Will Young, Rachin Ravindra, Tom Latham (Captain and wicket-keeper), Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi (Captain), Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhil (wicket-keeper), Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi.