Kane Williamson led by example as the New Zealand captain’s 79 not out guided his side to a seven-wicket win over Afghanistan that maintained their 100 percent start to the World Cup on Saturday.
Williamson was New Zealand’s top scorer with a 99-ball innings containing nine fours after Jimmy Neesham took career-best one-day figures of 5-31 to dismiss Afghanistan for 172 at Taunton.
New Zealand’s third successive victory kept them on course to make the semifinals in the 10-team tournament, while minnows Afghanistan have lost all three of their match-es.
New Zealand, who saw off Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in their opening two games, have won 11 of their last 12 World Cup games, with their only defeat in that span com-ing against Australia in the 2015 final.
The Black Caps’ run chase got off to the worst possible start when Aftab Alam had Mar-tin Guptill caught off a thin inside edge with the first ball of the innings.
Guptill’s 14th ODI duck was a dream start for Aftab in the pace bowler’s first appear-ance in this year’s World Cup.
Afghanistan took the field without leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who was hit on the head when he was dismissed by Lockie Ferguson’s bouncer in the first innings.
But it was Aftab who was leading the Afghan attack to good effect and he removed Colin Munro to leave New Zealand on 41-2.
It was a nervous start from the Black Caps and Williamson had to survive a review of a caught behind appeal.
Afghanistan kept the pressure on and Williamson rode his luck again when he just made his ground to beat a run-out review.
Together with Ross Taylor, Williamson steadied the ship in a 89-run partnership for the third wicket.
Fittingly, it was Williamson who clinched the win with a routine single as New Zealand reached 173-3 in 32.1 overs.
SCORES IN BRIEF
Afghanistan: 172 all out in 41.1 overs (Zazai 34, Zadran 31, Shahidi 59; Ferguson 4-37, Neesham 5-31)
New Zealand: 173 for 3 in 32.1 overs (Williamson 79, Taylor 48; Alam 3-45)
Result: New Zealand won by 7 wickets.