Another week, another run chase and another win. And there was enough in today’s game to satisfy both the glass half empty and half full factions, with the Quarter Final less than a fortnight away..
At one stage it looked as if we were going to be in for another half game; Afghanistan had slumped to 59/6 on the 20th over, Vettori was bowling with a ring of close-in catchers, and Boult was sagain totally dominant. But the Afghans were up for a fight more than others, made it through to 186, and for the first time since the first day of this competition New Zealand took lunch at the end of the innings.
McCullum was aggressive with his field placements throughout; the cordon of catchers on the off-side, the occasional leg slip, and bringing himself in first to be the man under the helmet. The other good thing about the way he does it is that they are done quickly, with no hold-up in play. This is in complete contrast to, say, England where the fidgeting and adjustments disrupt the flow of the game.
There is something about the way Afghanistan plays; batsmen not afraid to take on the quicker bowlers, and big fast bowlers with face paint, bandanas and mullets. They have now finished their New Zealand games, and we will miss them.
The two biggest partnerships conceded by NZ at this World Cup have been by Scotland and Afghanistan
The New Zealand run chase almost settled some national angst but left enough questions out there to satisfy those who enjoy a good fret.
McCullum did what McCullum does. His Strike Rate in this tournament is over 190, and he has three half-centuries. But if he gives his wicket away in a knockout match after facing 19 deliveries you know what happens next.
After a slow start, Guptill was almost getting back to his best in reaching 50. He then completely lost his concentration in gifting a run out. By the guy backing up from the original attempt.
Taylor was scratchy, but doggedly stuck to the task, which was exactly the right thing to do for both him and the team. And Elliott was back to looking assured until also managing to run himself out. Tougher bowling attacks lie ahead.
Those MVP points.
- Guptill. He needed time in the middle, and we even got to see the lofted straight drive.
- Boult. Remember when people thought Boult was a fringe candidate for this World Cup squad? For the second match in a row he was near on unplayable at the top of the innings before returning to bounce out a tail-ender. 10 of his 13 points have come in the last four matches.
- Vettori. This new tactic of bringing him on early adds another option for New Zealand. Figures of 10-4-18-4 say the rest. He has now bowled 272 balls in this World Cup, he has taken 12 wickets, bowled 171 dot balls & conceded just 7 boundaries.