New Zealand keep winning team together
March 8, 2015
Start time 11.00am local (2200GMT, previous day)
New Zealand are unbeaten after four matches and every expectation is that they will be unbeaten after six when the group stage is finished. However, these next two games are as vital as the brace that have gone before them.
Starting against Afghanistan in Napier, New Zealand need to ensure they do not suffer a drop-off after the high-intensity matches that got a nation buzzing. The finishing position in the group will determine future opponents while there are aspects of their game which could do with a workout.
The middle order has had precious little time at the crease, either because they have not been needed or, as happened last weekend, were dispatched by Mitchell Starc. Given they are the ballast, Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott are the most in need of a decent stint. The death bowling has also barely been tested at this tournament due to the brevity of opposition innings. Both aspects could play a crucial role in a World Cup quarter-final.
Afghanistan have clocked up plenty of miles for this fixture, travelling from Perth following the meeting with Australia, having flown from Dunedin to Western Australia before that. Logistics for a tournament such as this are difficult, but this does seem an overly tough journey in a short space of time. Coupled with the hammering handed out by the Australian batsmen, the quick bowlers especially would have appreciated a bit more time to recover.
(last five matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WWWWW
In the spotlight
Martin Guptill has not been a failure at the World Cup, but neither has he been a success. Scores of 49, 17, 22, 11 will be frustratingly familiar to New Zealand supporters. Riding in the slipstream of Brendon McCullum, he has often looked in fine fettle before losing his wicket. His critics will say that substantial runs against Afghanistan would not prove anything, but a failure would just tick the pressure up a notch. So he's probably in a no-win situation. Still, a hundred would be a hundred.
Usman Ghani, 18, is the youngest player appearing at this tournament. It was somewhat of a surprise that he had to wait until Afghanistan's fourth match for his chance having previously scored runs on the acclimatisation trip to Australia and New Zealand last October and he also has an ODI hundred against Zimbabwe. His innings against Johnson, Starc and Hazlewood was brief but should have contained lessons that will stay with him.
Same again, for the fifth time, confirmed McCullum. New Zealand have decided keeping a winning XI together is more valuable that giving squad players an outing.
New Zealand 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (capt), 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult
Despite the pounding by Australia, Afghanistan could go in with the same team. Andy Moles emphasised how big a loss Mirwais Ashraf has been after his injury picked up against Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan 1 Javed Ahmadi, 2 Usman Ghani, 3 Nawroz Mangal, 4 Asghar Stanikzai, 5 Samiullah Shenwari, 6 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Afsar Zazai (wk), 9 Dawlat Zadran, 10 Hamid Hassan, 11 Shapoor Zadran
Pitch and conditions
Expect it to be flat, as usual, at McLean Park. They are using the same surface as for the Pakistan-UAE contest so there will be some additional wear. Pakistan helped themselves to 339 without ever really breaking sweat, although Afghanistan's attack should provide more of a challenge. The forecast is for a warm, sunny day in the Hawkes Bay region.
Stats and trivia
These two teams have never met in international cricket
Daniel Vettori needs two wickets to become the 12th bowler to take 300 in ODIs
New Zealand's highest total in their own country has come on this ground - 372 for 8 against Zimbabwe - while their previous outing here, against Pakistan, saw them amass 369 for
"We've settled on this as our No. 1 team at this point, but I'm confident if injuries do come about we've got the experience and personnel on the sideline that can step up and perform a role."
Brendon McCullum isn't worried about the depth of his squad
"We have to learn from what we came across. When you come across these players once every four years it's difficult for the boys. The guys also had to face 150kph on one the quickest, bounciest wicket in the world and it's totally alien to them."
Andy Moles said the lessons from Perth were harsh but valuable for his players