Chennai, The Gulf Observer: New Zealand collected its fourth straight win to open the Cricket World Cup by beating Afghanistan by 149 runs on Wednesday after important half-centuries by Glenn Phillips and Tom Latham.
Phillips was the top scorer with 71 off 80 balls and put on 144 runs for the fifth wicket with Latham (68) to rescue the Black Caps from a precarious 110-4 as they posted 288-6.
New Zealand curtailed Afghanistan, which was coming off a surprising 69-run win over England, to 139 all out in 34.4 overs and registered another big victory in the competition to boost its net run rate.
The Black Caps are in first place on a maximum eight points, with India — with three straight victories — the only other unbeaten team.
Put into bat by Afghanistan, New Zealand got off to a sedate start on a tricky pitch but still got into a strong position at 109-1 before a mini-collapse.
In-form Devon Conway was out lbw to Mujeeb ur Rahman for 20 but fellow opener Will Young, who replaced the injured Kane Williamson, made a second straight half-century with 54 off 64 balls, hitting four fours and three sixes.
Young put on 79 runs off 83 balls with Rachin Ravindra (32) when the game changed.
Bowling allrounder Azmatullah Omarzai (2-56) struck a double blow in the space of five deliveries, bowling Ravindra — who went for a wild swing — before Young was caught behind by wicketkeeper Ikram Alikhil off a low one-handed catch diving to his left.
Rashid Khan entered into the attack and dismissed Daryl Mitchell for one, leaving New Zealand on 110-4 having lost three wickets for one run across nine deliveries.
The slump raised the prospect of another stunning upset by the daring Afghanistan team but Phillips and Latham came together to thwart those plans.
They started in a circumspect manner in an effort to rebuild the innings by adding 50 off 75 balls, then passed 100 off 134 deliveries.
Afghanistan’s fielding went to tatters at that point and any pressure was released. Latham was dropped twice — in total, Afghanistan had four mistakes in the field — to allow New Zealand to escape.
The partnership helped New Zealand across 250, an important milestone for a frail Afghanistan batting lineup to come.
Naveen ul Haq got the breakthrough and dismissed both set batters but Mark Chapman rose to the occasion, smacking 25 not out off 12 balls to help push the score further along.
In reply, Afghanistan’s batting never really took off as Trent Boult and his new-ball partner, Matt Henry, subdued the top order with their pace and movement, sharing three wickets.
Henry (1-16) bowled in-form opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz for 11 while Boult (2-18) got Ibrahim Zadran (14) at the other end, leaving Afghanistan on 27-2.
Wickets then fell at regular intervals, with Afghanistan unable to string together any partnerships except for Rahmat Shah and Azmatullah Omarzai putting on 54 runs for the fourth wicket off 70 balls. Shah’s 36 off 62 balls was the highest individual score for Afghanistan.
Ravindra dismissed Shah with a simple return catch, with the umpire’s on-field not out decision overturned, and the procession continued. Azmatullah scored 27 and no other batter crossed 20.
Mitchell Santner had 3-39 in 7.4 overs, included his 100th ODI wicket, and also took a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss Afghanistan skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi. Lockie Ferguson finished with 3-19 in seven overs, rounding off a brilliant New Zealand effort with the ball.
Williamson was unavailable owing to a thumb injury sustained during the match against Bangladesh. Legspinner Ish Sodhi missed out for a fourth successive game.