Abu Dhabi: New Zealand are unassuming professionals, who don’t show much of an emotion and make a big noise, but they complete their task with clinical precision.
When the chips are down they seem to be having the attitude - yes we can! That tenacity is helping them tide over every hurdle they come across, however big or small it may be.
It’s an amazing feat by the bunch of hardworking New Zealanders, who plot their rivals’ downfall and carry out their plan to perfection. It was in the 18th over and for the first time in the virtual quarter-final, skipper Kane Williamson removed his cap to suggest the team was under pressure, a proof of the team’s domination. However, it was short-lived as Tim Southee removed the dangerous Mohammad Nabi off the last ball of the over to break the 56-run partnership with Najibullah Zadran.
Against all the odds, the Black Caps made it to the final of the 50-over World Cup in 2019 where they narrowly lost to England on a countback of boundaries after the super over failed to break the deadlock. They won the Test Championship defeating India in the final. Now they have booked their place in the semi-final of the Twenty20 World Cup.
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The first two events were held on conditions that favoured the New Zealand seamers, but the UAE conditions favoured the subcontinent teams, still they won two of the three matches and narrowly lost to Pakistan at Sharjah for their only loss in the Super-12 Group 2.
What makes them so dangerous? Simple, they play the mind games better. The planning and execution are immaculate, and this is exactly what they displayed against India and Afghanistan, reading the pitch well and bowling in the right areas.
It’s an open secret that the batters from the sub-continent are strong on the front foot. Armed with that knowledge, they bowled short-pitched deliveries to Afghanistan and Indian batters, cutting down their scoring opportunities.
It was a strong performance, we know how dangerous this Afghanistan side is. It has certainly been a challenge to adjust quickly to three different venues. Another strong challenge coming up. England are a very strong side. For us it is important we keep learning and building on. Incredibly tough competition. Looking forward to the occasion
After taking them out of their comfort zone, the New Zealanders wait patiently for the batters to crack under pressure. They invariably fall in the trap. Against India, they got some assistance from the wicket but in today’s game against Afghanistan, the pitch at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium was perfect one for batting, offering enough freedom to play their shots. New Zealand’s fielding compliments their bowling perfectly, they seldom drop catches. In fact, they grab half chances to leave their opponents shell-shocked.
Boult might not be the quickest and on these conditions and he doesn’t get much lateral movement, still he managed to get 11 wickets in these five games. His feat speaks volumes about his skills to come up with the right variations to exploit batters’ weaknesses.
Afghanistan batters are good against spin, hence Williamson continued with his pacers until the end of the power play overs, by which time Afghanistan had lost three wickets - from where it was becoming too difficult to claw their way back.
Master tactician Williamson, with the help of his general Boult, keep marching to many conquests, next in line is England in the semi-finals and at the same venue.
Williamson and Boult have already started preparing for the contest. “It was a strong performance, we know how dangerous this Afghanistan side is. It has certainly been a challenge to adjust quickly to three different venues. Another strong challenge coming up. England are a very strong side. For us it is important we keep learning and building on. Incredibly tough competition. Looking forward to the occasion,” Williamson said at the post-match presentation ceremony, within 10 minutes after winning against Afghanistan.
Boult, the Player of the Match, said: “The boys are in good spirits, some big games coming up. Wickets have been different during the day games and night games so nice to have experienced both. England are playing good cricket. It is going to be a challenge.”
Williamson and his men get a chance to make amends for that loss in 2019 final.