T20 World Cup Wrap: Blackcaps’ date with destiny - Sky
Here we go then, the humdinger we’ve been eyeing up all week.
The Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi will play host to the Blackcaps taking on Afghanistan tonight (23:00 NZT) and the equation is as simple as it gets. A win for New Zealand will see them through to their second T20 World Cup semi-final in a row, and their record at ICC tournaments to become even more enviable.
Lose, and the calculations of net run rate will be whirring with Afghanistan drawing level with the Blackcaps on six points and India clawing themselves out of the doldrums to do the same. Currently, New Zealand has the lowest net run rate out of the three teams, so instead of entertaining that notion too much let’s crack on for the win.
A particularly encouraging sign that the Blackcaps are building nicely was the turnaround with the bat from their match against Scotland. They scored a lowly 22 runs from the last three overs of the innings, and then took Namibia apart for 67 runs in the final four overs.
However, they will be looking to improve on the number of dot balls being soaked up as players look to clear the rope, and worryingly, are almost trying too hard to do so. A dot is a victory to the bowler in T20 cricket, and New Zealand can’t afford to have a high dot ball percentage with the bat against Afghanistan. Every ball is its own event, and every run needs to count.
Sometimes on the tricky UAE surfaces, knocking it around into space and running hard between the wickets is equally as valuable, particularly at the start of the batter’s innings. Namibia had them on the ropes through the middle overs and staring down the barrel of a low total before a couple of freebie full tosses ignited Glenn Phillips’ and Jimmy Neesham’ s innings.
This will be the first time that New Zealand has ventured to Abu Dhabi in this tournament, so some quick adjustments will need to be made to adapt to the quirks of the ground and pitch. For Afghanistan this will be their third trip. Having scored 144 and 160 against India and Namibia respectively, they will know that anything is achievable should they bat second.
Afghanistan isn’t a team that needs any extra motivation - constantly undermined, undervalued and not given the credit they deserve. But following the news that Australia has postponed their first ever test against Afghanistan, it will serve as another reminder to the team from the subcontinent that their time as a full ICC member is ticking.
Assuming the regime won’t change their stance on banning women’s cricket, then it is entirely possible that the ICC will strip Afghanistan of their Test status in the near future. Bearing this in mind, this all-important game against the Blackcaps takes on another level of significance, with Afghanistan playing for their livelihood.
Should Afghanistan defeat New Zealand and power their way into the semi-finals, their standing in world cricket would be greatly elevated. They would become more sought after to tour, and to host teams for white ball series. Their standing as a limited overs side would skyrocket further if they made it to the final and, plot twist, if they went on to win it.
It wouldn’t quite repair the blow that losing their Test status could bring, but it would contribute towards recouping what players and the Afghanistan Cricket Board stand to lose by not being able to participate in Test matches.
India well and truly dismantled them the other night, so Afghanistan will be looking to go back to their strengths; runs right through the order and getting back to their wicket-taking ways. Key spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman was missing again for the line-up for that fixture, so they will be desperately hoping that he is fit to play New Zealand.
The Blackcaps have been put under the pump with must-win clashes in this tournament and came out on the right side of the ledger. So set your clocks team, you won’t want to miss this one.
*Kristy Havill is a Canterbury Magicians cricketer, and a former world championship silver medallist in clay target shooting. Her Twenty20 World Cup columns on Stuff are courtesy of Sky TV, which is broadcasting the tournament live.