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Preview: T20 World Cup: New Zealand vs. Afghanistan - prediction, team news, series so far

Sports Mole previews the 2024 T20 World Cup match between New Zealand and Afghanistan, scheduled to be played at Providence Stadium on Saturday.

New Zealand will get their 2024 ICC T20 World Cup campaign underway this weekend when they take on Afghanistan at the Providence Stadium in Guyana on Saturday morning.

These two sides faced each other once in the shortest format back in 2021 and the Black Caps won that encounter fairly comfortably by eight wickets and with 11 balls to spare.


Match preview

New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell in action on June 5, 2024© Reuters

Group C is widely considered the toughest in the tournament this year and New Zealand have been handed about the worst fixture list they could have received facing Afghanistan and West Indies in their first two matches.

On top of that, the Black Caps' preparation for the competition was far from ideal, with rain restricting them to just two full training sessions, which included in-game scenarios in the absence of warm-up matches.

Gary Stead's side could have scheduled warm-up matches but chose not to, as their squad only fully assembled on Sunday with the arrival of Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson.

New Zealand's last competitive T20 match ended in a nine-run defeat to Pakistan back in April, which ended a five-match series level at 2-2 after the opening match was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

Still, despite their setbacks, the Black Caps always turn up at these types of tournaments and are no strangers to reaching the latter stages, having made semi-final appearances in the previous edition of this competition and the 50-over format last year.

Afghanistan celebrate wicket against England in Cricket World Cup on October 15, 2023.© Reuters

Meanwhile, Afghanistan came into the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 as a potential dark horse following an impressive ODI World Cup campaign in India, where they finished ahead of former champions England and Sri Lanka.

Since their debut in 2010, the Blue Tigers have reached the Super Eight stage in each of the last three editions of this tournament, which illustrates the steady improvement they have made over the years following first-round exits in their first three attempts.

With Jonathan Trott in the dugout alongside bowling coach Dwayne Bravo, the Afghans got off to the perfect start in this year's competition, romping to a 125-run victory against tournament newcomers Uganda on Tuesday.

Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (76) and Ibrahim Zadran (70) forged a remarkable 154-run opening partnership, the second-highest in men's T20 World Cup history, surpassed only by the 170 by England's Jos Buttler and Alex Hales in 2022.

However, the standout performer of the match was Fazalhaq Farooqi, who shone with five wickets for a mere nine runs as Uganda collapsed to the fourth-lowest total in T20 World Cup history.

While the Blue Tigers will be brimming with confidence, the one criticism the side have faced is that their recent run of form has come against non-Test-playing nations, and it will be interesting to see how they fare here in their first proper challenge since their 2-1 series loss to Sri Lanka back in February.


Team News

Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra celebrate for New Zealand and England on October 5, 2023.© Reuters

Finn Allen has been labelled as one to watch in this year's tournament. The right-hander's ability in the first half of the innings is remarkable, with his powerplay strike rate of 149 in the current World Cup cycle being the highest of any player in T20 history.

The Black Caps will be led on the field by the experience of skipper Kane Williamson, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, while Kyle Jamieson and Adam Milne are sidelined from the lineup due to injuries.

Afghanistan are likely to remain unchanged after their first-match performance and will look to the dynamic duo of Gurbaz and Zadran to lay the foundation at the top of the innings again.

Rashid Khan delivered an excellent 2/12 and Naveen-ul-Haq picked up 2/4 in two overs against Uganda both will need to support the opening pair of Farooqi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman to keep the Black Caps' formidable top order at bay.


New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Finn Allen, Trent Boult, Michael Bracewell, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee

Afghanistan squad: Rashid Khan (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Azmatullah Omarzai, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Ishaq, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Nangyal Kharoti, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Fareed Ahmad Malik


Series so far

New Zealand

New Zealand are playing their first match of the competition.

Afghanistan

Match One: Afghanistan won by 125 runs
Afghanistan - 183/5 (20)
Uganda - 58 (16)


SM words green background

We say: Afghanistan to win

While New Zealand are the higher-ranked side, their preparation coming into this tournament has been far from ideal, and the pitches in the Caribbean so far have proven to be anything but straightforward.

This match will give us a clearer indication of what to expect from the Black Caps in this competition, but we feel that they may just suffer an against-the-odds defeat in this one.

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England celebrate taking a wicket against Pakistan on May 25, 2024.
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