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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

T20 World Cup 2021: Efficient New Zealand dismantle Afghanistan to book semifinal berth

Afghanistan won two and lost three games in the Super 12. The whole of India wanted them to beat New Zealand to keep Virat Kohli's team in the competition but the Black Caps proved too good for them.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Abu Dhabi |
Updated: November 8, 2021 8:38:11 am
New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson won the match against Afghanistan. (AP Photo)

New Zealand are through to the semifinals. India will pack their bags and go home. Another ICC event failure for the game’s superpower, this time at the group stage.

Through their cultured dismantling of Afghanistan in a virtual quarterfinal, the Kiwis showed why they thoroughly deserved to reach the last four at India’s expense. Yet again, Trent Boult rose to the occasion with three wickets – he has been hurting India since the 2019 World Cup. Support around him was excellent. Kane Williamson anchored the chase with 40 not out and putting on a 68-run partnership with Devon Conway (36 not out) for the third wicket. After restricting Afghanistan to 124/8, New Zealand’s win became a formality.

Any chance of an upset in this game was evaporated into the Abu Dhabi air inside the Powerplay after Afghanistan won the toss and chose to bat on a used pitch. Adam Milne did the early damage to Afghanistan batting, and India’s hopes, with a short delivery to Mohammad Shahzad.

It was, in fact, wicketkeeper Conway’s scalp, a catch taken through brilliant acrobatism.

Boult and Southee made their presence felt soon, removing Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. At 19/3, Afghanistan were gasping for breath and India were resigned to their fate.

Lacking allround quality for the top level, Afghanistan’s batting has always been one-dimensional – hitting out of trouble. But today, Najibullah Zadran batted well for his 73 off 48 balls, giving his team’s total some respectability in the process. His charge against Jimmy Neesham was exciting and a couple of sixes off Mitchell Santner were praiseworthy. But he was playing a lone ranger.

Afghanistan’s Gulbadin Naib, centre, reacts after he was dismissed by New Zealand’s Ish Sodhi. (AP Photo)

With Gulbadin Naib trying to put on a partnership with Zadran, Williamson brought on wrist-spin and Ish Sodhi dismissed the batsman with a long-hop, a short and wide ball going further wide, which Naib somehow managed to drag on to the stumps.

It always felt like an Afghanistan wicket was just around the corner. They completely lost the plot after Zadran got out and regressed to comical, epitomised by Rashid Khan in the final over. The Kiwis, on the other hand, were resplendent in their fielding.

Daryl Mitchell flew like a goalkeeper to save a certain six at the deep mid-wicket boundary. Williamson slid on the ring to grab a stunner to remove Rashid. The Kiwis were first-class and their opponents average.

Without any scoreboard pressure, New Zealand’s job was to get a decent opening start. After three overs, they were 26 for no loss. At the end of the Powerplay, they were 46/1. That was half the job done. Mujeeb Ur Rahman was getting some purchase from the deck, but Martin Guptill wrested the initiative with back-to-back fours off the spinner.

Afghanistan weren’t on their toes in the field. They switched off as well. Hamid Hassan reacted late to a pre-mediated sweep from Williamson and dropped the catch at short fine leg off Mujeeb, with the New Zealand captain on four. And when Hamid found a thin outside edge of Conway’s bat, the wicketkeeper didn’t appeal. Gradually, New Zealand sauntered to their victory target and won by eight wickets, with 11 balls to spare. They had virtually sealed a knockout berth on the day their spinners choked Indian batting in a win-or-bust game.

New Zealand thrived on sticking to the basics and playing to situations throughout the group phase of the tournament. The way they adjusted to different venues spoke volumes for their allround skill-set. Williamson said as much at the post-match presentation. “It has certainly been a challenge to adjust quickly to three different venues.”

As New Zealand progressed to the last four, India cancelled their pre-match training session that had a 6.30 pm start.

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