New Zealand qualify for the semi-finals. India will pack up and go home. Another ICC event failure for the game’s superpower, this time in the group stage.
With their cultured dismantling of Afghanistan in a virtual quarterfinal, the Kiwis have shown why they more than deserve to reach the bottom four at the expense of India. Once again, Trent Boult seized the opportunity with three wickets – he’s been hurting India since the 2019 World Cup. The support around him was excellent. Kane Williamson anchored the pursuit with 40 not eliminated and signed a 68-point partnership with Devon Conway (36 not eliminated) for the third wicket. After limiting Afghanistan to 124/8, New Zealand’s victory became a formality.
Any chance of a knockdown in that match evaporated in the Abu Dhabi air inside the Powerplay after Afghanistan won the toss and chose to strike on used pitch. Adam Milne caused the first damage to the Afghan staff and the hopes of India, with a short delivery to Mohammad Shahzad.
It was, in fact, wicket keeper Conway’s scalp, a catch taken with brilliant acrobatics.
Boult and Southee quickly made their presence felt, removing Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. At 19/3, Afghanistan was out of breath and India had resigned itself to its fate.
Lacking overall quality for the top level, the Afghan hitter has always been one-dimensional – out of trouble. But today, Najibullah Zadran hit well for his 73 of 48 balls, giving his team total some respectability in the process. His charge against Jimmy Neesham was exciting and some Mitchell Santner sixes were worthy of praise. But he was playing a lonely ranger.
As Gulbadin Naib tried to forge a partnership with Zadran, Williamson twisted the wrist and Ish Sodhi returned the batsman with a long jump, a short, wide ball going further, which Naib managed to slide to the stumps. .
I always felt like an Afghan counter was just around the corner. They completely lost the plot after Zadran came out and regressed to the comedic, played by Rashid Khan in the finale. The Kiwis, on the other hand, were resplendent in their lineup.
Daryl Mitchell stole like a goalie to save a number six at the mid-wicket limit. Williamson slipped into the ring to grab a stunner to take out Rashid. The Kiwis were first class and their opponents average.
Without any pressure from the scoreboard, New Zealand’s job was to get a decent opening start. After three overs, they were 26 for no loss. At the end of Powerplay, they were 46/1. It was half the job done. Mujeeb Ur Rahman got some buy from the bridge, but Martin Guptill snatched the initiative with four back-to-backs on the top.
Afghanistan was not on its guard on the ground. They also died out. Hamid Hassan reacted late to a premeditated sweep from Williamson and dropped Mujeeb’s short, slender leg capture, with the New Zealand captain in four. And when Hamid found a thin outside edge of Conway’s bat, the wicket keeper didn’t appeal. Gradually, New Zealand moved towards their winning goal and won by eight wickets, with 11 balls to spare. They had virtually sealed a knockout berth the day their spinners smothered the Indian stick in a winning or losing game.
New Zealand prospered by sticking to the basics and playing out situations throughout the group stage of the tournament. The way they adapted to different sites spoke volumes about their soft skills. Williamson said so during the post-game presentation. “It has certainly been a challenge to adapt quickly to three different sites. “
As New Zealand qualified for the final four, India called off their pre-match training session which started at 6.30pm.