New Zealand cricket team celebrating during a night match. New Zealand cricket team celebrating during a night match.

New Zealand to begin World Cup campaign against red hot Afghanistan

Four days after thrashing Uganda in their first game, Afghanistan will now face a tougher challenge against a side that always brings their A-game in a mega event, New Zealand. No team since 2015, has reached the knockout stage of a white-ball event more than the Kiwis. They’ve made it to the semi-finals in each of the six white-ball events since and played three finals, however, their trophy cabinet remains empty.

Kane Williamson will once again be leading New Zealand as they face an in-form Afghanistan team for their opening match of the 2024 T20 World Cup. The match will be held in Guyana, a venue that has been the most spin-friendly in his year’s World Cup, and with Afghanistan having arguably the best spin-attack amongst all teams, and New Zealand coming into this game without any warm-up matches before the tournament, Rashid Khan’s side stand with a big chance to take down the Kiwis.

The Kiwis aren’t short of quality spinners either. The Caribbean is Mitchell Santner’s favorite place to bowl, with an average of 16.83 and an economy of 5.50. The left-arm spinner has immaculate control of his bowling speed and with a variety of tricks up his sleeves, he surely will be a threat as the tournament progresses. Apart from Santner, Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips will provide flexibility even if they leave Ish Sodhi out. For Afghanistan, a lot relies on the settled opening pair of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran to provide a powerful start. 

New Zealand’s two most important batters, Kane Williamson and Devon Conway have barely played any competitive T20 cricket recently. Conway has been out of action due to a finger injury due to which he couldn’t participate in the 2024 Indian Premier League edition while Williamson managed to get just two games for Gujarat Titans. 

Finn Allen is expected to pair up with Conway for the opening stand, while the middle order will be formed by Willaimson, Daryl Mitchell, Mark Chapman or Ravindra, and Glenn Phillips. James Neeshan keeps his spot in the T20 side and will have a huge role to play in the tournament for New Zealand. Trent Boult, Matt Henry, and Lockie Fergu

Afghanistan’s front-line pacer showed against Uganda that his team is not just about spinners. In Providence, the fast bowler found a decent amount of deviation off the pitch against Uganda and was able to swing the ball by as much as 2.5 degrees in the early phase of the innings.

Farooqi will be accompanied by fellow pacer Naveen-ul-Haq and by the masterful spin trio of Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, and Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman.

The pitch in Guyana has traditionally been on the slower side and teams have preferred chasing at this venue. 19 of the 27 games played at this venue since 2022 have been won by the team chasing. The average winning score in the first inning is 184. The game between New Zealand and Afghanistan is likely to be affected by rain with a forecast of showers in the evening.