World Cup, Match 31: New Zealand vs Afghanistan at Napier
Tournament co-hosts New Zealand have been a wrecking ball over the past three weeks. They skittled Sri Lanka, disposed of Scotland, pulverised England and then edged out World Cup favourites Australia in a thriller in Auckland. They could scarcely have hoped for a better start to their campaign. The Kiwis have a wonderfully well-balanced team with a blend of solid, reliable operators and dynamic match-winners. Their batting and bowling strengths both have been showcased at times over their past four matches. Afghanistan, meanwhile, have been the good news story of the tournament competing in their first World Cup. They registered a rousing first win over Scotland but were promptly given a jarring wake-up call when they suffered the heaviest loss in World Cup history to Australia on Wednesday. This match against New Zealand shapes as another lopsided result.
Afghanistan’s batsmen vs swing:
Perhaps more so than any other side in ODI cricket, New Zealand exploit movement through the air to befuddle opposition batsmen. In Tim Southee and Trent Boult they have a right-arm/left-arm opening bowling pair who are capable of hooping the ball through the air. Even the elite batsmen in world cricket struggle against quality swing bowling so it will be decisive whether Afghanistan’s batsmen can limit the damage done by Southee and Boult.