Black Caps' hopes hang by a thread

Publish Date
Sunday, 9 June 2024, 9:10AM

By Kris Shannon

Memorable moments and historic results are nothing new when Kane Williamson steps on a cricket pitch.

After an “incredibly frustrating” start to his side’s tilt at the T20 World Cup, the New Zealand skipper can add a couple more to his well-stocked career scrapbook.

The Black Caps’ humbling loss to Afghanistan in Guyana on Saturday was the first time the Asian nation had triumphed in this fixture. The fact they needed only five attempts across the short forms reflected accurately their rapid ascendance.

For New Zealand, the 84-run defeat represented the first time they had lost in World Cup play to a side outside the initial eight full-member nations. Their reputation as a formidable tournament team had been built on 37 such victories.

That reputation - along with their chances of extending a streak of eight straight semifinal appearances at world events - suffered a severe blow.

More than one, to be fair. Several flew off the bat of opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz (80 off 56) as Afghanistan made 159-6, before Fazalhaq Farooqi (4-17) and Rashid Khan (4-17) inflicted a few more to dismiss their opposition for 75.

Afghanistan deserved immense credit for the comprehensive margin; this isn’t the first and will be far from the last time they thoroughly outplay a more renowned nation.

But as impressive as they were in securing a second win to take control of Group C, Williamson acknowledged the Black Caps were woefully deficient in all three facets.

“We need to be a lot better,” the captain said. “That performance from us married up to an outstanding performance from Afghanistan, and it wasn’t good enough. They showed their skill today and we were outplayed.

“They had every opportunity to get a very good score. Our fielding didn’t help our cause - without a doubt that would be the most frustrating part for me. It is something we pride ourselves on, so that was very disappointing.”

The disappointment is understandable, with Williamson’s team dropping catches while missing stumpings and runout opportunities. That allowed Afghanistan to reach 103-0 by the 15th over and continued a worrying trend of substandard fielding displays that plagued the Black Caps over their home summer.

The batting display was worse, though not without mitigation. Mitchell Santner indicated the pitch changed with the innings, becoming tackier and more prone to spin, while Williamson continued a pre-game trend by lauding the opposing attack.

“Afghanistan were outstanding and we knew that would be the case - they’re playing really well,” he said. “They have skill across the board, but their bowling attack in these conditions would be one of the top few going around.

“Certainly they’re not the standards we set for ourselves, but take nothing away from Afghanistan. They were superb and they’ve been building as a group for some time now. We’re seeing performances like that from them quite regularly.”

Williamson quite rightly called it a blueprint for his side - and it’s one they must quickly study. With only two teams from each pool progressing to the Super Eight, another setback against the West Indies on Thursday would be almost terminal.

“We know how strong the West Indies side are,” Williamson said of the co-hosts. “[Yesterday] was disappointing but I’ve been part of this, and in tournament sport, it’s about picking yourselves up and moving on quickly.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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