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Neesham, Ferguson bully Afghanistan into submission

08 Jun 2019 CricBuzz

New Zealand cantered to their third win in as many matches with a seven-wicket win over Afghanistan in Taunton on Saturday (June 8). Jimmy Neesham picked up his maiden five-wicket haul while Lockie Ferguson took four to restrict Afghanistan to just 172. The chase was a walk in the park for Kane Williamson and Co. as they polished it off in 32.1 overs.

Afghanistan came into the contest with two defeats weighing them down. They handed the initiative to Australia and Sri Lanka as they had slipped to 77 for 5 and 57 for 5 respectively. On the day, Hazratullah Zazai and Noor Ali Zadran gave the team a superb start by scoring 66 for the opening wicket. Zazai's aggressive approach rattled New Zealand just a touch early on as they let him get away with chances. On two consecutive balls, the fielders miss-judged two skiers as the opener gave the team a brisk start.

When Afghanistan were cruising at 66 for no loss, it seemed the batting unit was finally going to post a challenging total. But Neesham entered to change the scenario completely. Afghanistan lost three wickets with adding a run to the score. Zazai, a predominantly on-side player, was forced to chase a wide one and sliced a simple catch to sweeper cover. Zadran was bounced out by Ferguson while Rahmat Shah succumbed to Neesham.

Things kept getting worse. Between the 11th over to 15th over Afghanistan lost four wickets and scored just four. The game had tilted in New Zealand's favour and they never took the foot off the throat. Hashmatullah Shahidi, who struck a fighting half-century, and Mohammad Nabi took the team past 100 but the two rain breaks didn't help them either. The short bursts forced the players out for very short durations but was enough to not allow the batsmen to settle down.

Neesham completed his five-wicket haul in the 24 with twin strikes. In just one over, he nipped out Nabi and Najibullah to leave the lower-order too much to do. There was, however, no resistance and support for Shahidi even when he was ready to grind it out. Ikram Alikhil's World Cup debut was underwhelming while Rashid Khan lasted just four balls. The legspinner took a blow to his helmet and saw the ball crash into the stumps. He, after that, failed the concussion test and wasn't allowed to take part in the game as Afghanistan's bowling stocks plunged further.

There were some late hitting but New Zealand were always in control to now allow any substantial stand to flourish. Aftab Alam gave Afghanistan a dream start as he dismissed Martin Guptill on the first ball of the chase. Colin Munro and Williamson made a steady start and soon settled down to ease the nerves. In the eighth over, however, Munro guided a short ball straight to third man to fall for 22.

Williamson and Ross Taylor took it slow initially but took the team close without much fuss. There was drama as well when Williamson survived a review for a caught-behind appeal and then a runout. Alam yorked Taylor in the 26th over but New Zealand needed just 43 by then. New Zealand continue to top the table and are two points clear of second-placed England, who registered a win over Bangladesh and now have two wins from three games.

Brief scores: Afghanistan 172 in 41.1 overs (Hashmatullah Shahidi 59; Jimmy Neesham 5-31, Lockie Ferguson 4-37) lost to New Zealand 173/3 in 32.1 overs (Kane Williamson 79*; Aftab Alam 3-45) by seven wickets.

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