New Zealand jump banana skin as Afghanistan drop it

Kiwi have their middle back, their back ups do things, and can Gurbaz bat in the second innings?

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Well, well, well, New Zealand had a banana skin moment as their top order had a mini collapse out of nowhere against the spoilsport experts known as Afghanistan bowlers. And had Afghanistan caught one of the seen million chances they were given, this game could have been fun. Instead, New Zealand got enough through the Latham-Phillips-Chapman triangle, and Afghanistan chose not to bat.

Middle Zealand (JK)

Coming into this tournament I really worried about New Zealand’s ability to take wickets in the middle. Lockie Ferguson had not been doing it, Mitch Santner the same. I didn’t think they would bring in Ish Sodhi, meaning that a collection of part timers would have to bowl.

Worth look how that has all gone since.

Lockie Ferguson is bowling fast and accurate this World Cup. He has 85 balls back of a length or bouncers. He tried 215 from the last World Cup to now. So it seems like he this is on purpose. And also, maybe he is doing it more because he is faster now after his recent issues. But the point of this is that he’s taking all the middle overs wickets he needs with short balls, and no one is hitting him.

Worth noting the last two wickets have been in his favour. But even so, he just looks like the Lockie of a few years back. That would be enough on it’s own.

Coming into this World Cup, I had Santner in tier four of the spinners on my rankings. The economy was not a problem for him, he was always going to do that. At the moment he is 4.4. Beaut. But he is also the leading wicket taker in the tournament. The only caveat on that is eight of those wickets are against the Dutch and Afghanistan.

That said, I thought he bowled exceptional against England in the first game as well. He has completely outperformed how his ODI bowling had been. And he’s been good enough to build some pressure for Phillips and Ravindra to burgle some wickets.

Coming into this tournament, I thought the biggest issue was their middle overs bowling. Just the ability to get wickets. Had you told me Santner or Lockie would be bowling like this, I would have upgraded their chances. But both, well, that is some pretty special bonus for the men in black.

Latham and Phillips avert the crisis (SAK)

109/1 -> 110/4 . 9 balls. 1 run. 3 wickets. New Zealand went from cruising at a decent rate to struggling for survival. They had lost three in-form batters - Rachin, Young and Mitchell. Most teams would press panic and lose it from here. But we know that New Zealand are excellent at playing percentage cricket. They knew that Afghanistan aren’t the best death bowling side, so it was important they preserved wickets until the 40th over.

So today was the first time these two added over 30 runs together as a pair. They really complimented each other pretty well today. Phillips was the aggressor, while Latham batted more conservatively.

But this seemed like a proper plan. They couldn't go hard right after that collapse, so they stuck around and batted slowly, especially when Rashid Khan was bowling really well. They even waited a few overs into the death before really attacking.

NZ are also the second best team at the death. They had Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman who capitalized in this phase today. And that was with Phillips missing out on a full toss leading to a double wicket over, Latham leaving a terrible wide he could have hit for six, and Chapman getting stuck at the wrong end. It was clear even before the end this might be a bit much for the Afgan line up, but from over 44 on they had this game.

Will Young against spin (SAK)

Young has a significantly better record against spin than pace in this format. Not only does he average more, but he also strikes at 0.2 runs per ball more against the tweakers. This is not so common for a Kiwi batter - or anyone really - but it is a trait that makes him even more valuable in these conditions.

Watch him bat today. He was not afraid to step out against the spinners, and he also played the cut shot. His dot ball per cent was also 53.3 - against a quality spin trio - so he was not just reliant on hitting boundaries.

Afghanistan’s sloppy fielding (SAK)

Afghanistan and Australia have been the two worst fielding sides in this tournament. Their catching efficiency is under 60% at this point in the tournament. If the quality of the bowling unit doesn’t match the fielding standards, you just cannot win games as consistently as you should be. In a small sample size you can have these outlier numbers. That said, the problem is that these are both teams who seem to need wickets to stay in games.

So as of the 21st over, Afghanistan had a -45 impact with the bat, -49 with the ball, and -70 while fielding on the CricViz impact metrics, which calculate how much of an influence they had on the eventual scores. Negative seventy.

Mujeeb’s powerplay bowling (CS)

Coming into the World Cup, Afghanistan was bad with the ball in the first 10 overs because they didn’t have a strong seam attack. As a result, they had to rely on their spinners to contain the situation in the powerplay. It worked, because though they didn’t take wickets with the new ball, they did not leak a lot of runs.

Their primary operator in the first 10 overs was Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The offie is one of the most experienced spinners in the world with the new ball. Nobody is even close to him in terms of the sheer amount of overs bowled in this phase. His strike rate is atrocious (51.3), his average isn’t great (36.43), but he’s a very economical customer (4.25) because of the way he bowls. He generally attacks the stumps and doesn’t give away freebies.

That worked a treat against New Zealand. Had Hashmatullah not dropped Rachin Ravindra in the ninth over, Mujeeb Ur Rahman would have finished the powerplay with 2/27 in five overs. Instead, he finished with 1/27.

Rashid Khan is economical (SAK)

Worth mentioning today that Rashid Khan was the most economical bowler, but he got just the one wicket. And this happens very often in white ball cricket nowadays. Well-planned teams won’t take on the best bowlers of the opposition. Mind you, he was on the wrong side of drops, and also one where short fine didn’t even go for it. However, he kept pressure on New Zealand throughout.

Gurbaz’s second innings issues (JK)

Afghanistan decided to bowl first, which annoyed the commentators. In part because they think that the best way for this team to win is make a decent total and put pressure on through their spinners. The Afghan management decided that the dew may not make this work. I can see both sides here. But I want to point out one thing Simon Doull kept referencing, that their main batting weapon, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, is rubbish batting in the second innings.

And, he is. From 30 ODIS, he has batted in the second innings now 13 times and averaged less than 20. He does have a hundred there, which makes that average even weirder. But I thought for this to be true, 13 innings is not enough.

So I checked his T20 record for Afghanistan, and there it was again. Not quite as noticeable, but again when he bats second he doesn’t average more than 20. But again it was from less than 20 matches.

So eventually I just checked his entire T20 record where he has batted second in total 70 times. And suddenly the glitch was gone. He actually averages more. So now I don’t think if this is something or not, but when he plays a lot it seems the second innings isn’t a problem. And I even checked it just when he played top league cricket, like IPL, LPL, CPL and PSL, I couldn’t see the issue here at all.

Is it possible he can’t bat second for Afghanistan only? Feels like a stretch.

Afghanistan don’t score twos (JK)

There was something weird about watching Afghanistan batting they I could not work out. It took me an hour to finally work it out. Afghanistan don’t take twos. Well they take them, but less than any other team in this World Cup.

Now this can be ground related, Australia could have the most reluctant runners ever and take a lot of twos because of the size of their grounds. And the Kiwis the opposite. But I checked the grounds Afghanistan had played on and I found nothing in the numbers that suggested they were playing on small grounds. I think their main strike rotators just look for singles or boundaries. Twos are great in this format as they stretch the field, are safer than boundary attempts, and provide frustration for bowlers.

They don’t have to run them to be a good batting unit, but they do have to look for them.

Odds and points (JK)

This is fun, so today I was browsing through the points table and then I went over to the odds. And I realised something I had seen was a bit off. New Zealand were in the death overs, and had wrestled the game back, meaning they were a big chance of making themselves four and 0.

But they weren’t second favourite. Australia were. Yet on the points table, the Aussies were third last with one win. The most Australian thing ever is for them to be 1-2 against a 4-0 New Zealand and still be more likely according to the bookies to win the world Cup.