Dubai: Afghanistan fritted away a golden chance to underline prove their worth on the 50-over stage after getting a good start against the likes of Trent Boult and Matt Henry.
James Neesham provided the breakthough, ending the 66-run opening stand between Hazratullah Zazai and Noor Ali Zardan, that proved the turning point of the contest. A bigger total, with the support of Afghanistan’s potent bowling, the Asian minnows could have achieved success against the Black Caps.
Spurred on by the early success, the right-arm pacer went on to produce his career-best ODI figures of 5 for 31. Fellow paceman Lockie Ferguson also came to the party with a four-wicket haul to demolish the Afghanistan batting. After the exit of Zazai, the Afghans just added 107 runs before their innings folded up in a space of 30 overs. Excepting Hashmatullah Shahidi, who waged the lone battle with 59, none of the other batsmen could measure up to the guiles of Neesham and Ferguson.
Ferguson also dealt another major blow to Afghanistan’s hopes when his bouncer hit Rashid Khan on the helmet before the ball ricocheting to hit the stumps after the impact. The star spinner and Afghanistan’s main weapon did not take the field as a precautionary measure after failing the concussion test. His presence could have given more teeth to the Afghan bowling attack as the New Zealanders cruised to a seven-wicket victory with again skipper Kane Williamson and veteran Ross Taylor playing the crucial roles.
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