On Wednesday, October 18, Afghanistan’s World Cup campaign took a sharp downturn following their resounding 149-run defeat to New Zealand in Chennai. After a nearly flawless performance against England, this substantial loss was a significant setback for the Afghan team.
The target set by New Zealand was a competitive 289 runs, and Afghanistan’s innings got off to a shaky start right from the beginning. The conditions, particularly the movement of the new ball under the evening lights, posed a considerable challenge for the Afghan batters. The New Zealand pacers exploited these conditions skillfully, making it difficult for the Afghan batsmen to establish a solid foundation. Lockie Ferguson, in particular, shone with his fiery spell, claiming three wickets for just 19 runs.
New Zealand, recognizing and capitalizing on these gifts, took full advantage of the missed catches. As a result, they were in a comfortable position, with the score at 109/1 before Afghanistan’s bowler Omarzai was introduced into the attack. Omarzai made an immediate impact by dismissing both Young and Rachin Ravindra in the same over, effectively bringing Afghanistan back into the game.
The New Zealand team faced a significant challenge after losing a series of wickets, but their skipper, Tom Latham, and Glenn Phillips managed to salvage the situation by forming a crucial partnership of 144 runs. This partnership proved to be priceless for their team as it helped put the innings back on track.
The surface in the New Zealand-Bangladesh game served as an indication that facing the fast bowlers would be a tough challenge, especially when playing under the lights. At the outset, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, Afghanistan’s opening pair, managed to negotiate the first few overs fairly well. Both batsmen played a stroke each that showed promise. However, as soon as Matt Henry and Trent Boult found their line and length, it spelled trouble for the Afghan opening pair.
Matt Henry produced a sensational nip-backer that shattered Gurbaz’s stumps, dismissing him comprehensively. Simultaneously, Zadran attempted a flick stroke but was too early into the shot, resulting in a soft leading edge that was taken comfortably by a fielder at cover. Given Afghanistan’s heavy reliance on their top order, especially their openers, this double blow early in the innings significantly deflated their prospects.
The introduction of Lockie Ferguson further compounded Afghanistan’s woes, as he brought in his pace and bounce to unsettle the batsmen. This succession of wickets effectively took the wind out of Afghanistan’s sails, and they found themselves struggling against the high-quality pace attack of New Zealand. It underscored the critical role that fast bowlers can play in dictating the course of a match, especially when conditions are favorable for seam movement and bounce.