New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who carried his bat through as his side romped home past Afghanistan, acknowledged the brilliant efforts of pacers Lockie Ferguson and James Neesham in paving the way for their third consecutive win at the 2019 ICC World Cup in Taunton.
However it was not all smooth sailing and things could have panned out very differently, but for the timely interventions of the two bowlers, and of course the rain which helped make conditions a little more seamer friendly than they were.
“There are some world-class players in the Afghan side. They got off to a good start and it was important to build some pressure in the middle-overs, and the way the seamers came back in the middle-overs was fantastic - pace, bounce and a bit of movement did it for them,” Williamson said in the post-match presentation.
“Lockie doesn't need a lot of encouragement to turn up the speed. He has been fantastic in the three games so far. The left- and right-arm combination helps up top and Neesham hitting the wicket hard with the bounce, pace and the movement was great to watch.”
While Ferguson finished with four wickets to his name, Neesham, who had at one stage contemplated calling it quits all together, claimed five wickets to break the backbone of the opposition batting and finish with a very deserving man-of-the-match award.
“Afghanistan put us under pressure very early with the bat, but we knew we had the ability to dent them even after the start they got. The chase was clinical, obviously. Our home conditions are lower and slower, but the bouncy conditions suited me personally to be honest,” Neesham said.
“I let a few external voices affect my bowling, and I went back to my forte today - hitting the deck hard, and not trying to swing the ball too much.”
While the Kiwi bowlers were in full flow, the batsmen experienced minor hiccups with a couple of wickets early on for Afghanistan.
“We have chased three games in a row and we are trying to chase some of the lower targets. It is important to build the partnerships. We have a couple of days off now, and then we have India after that so we need to adapt to new venues,” Williamson added.
Afghanistan, who have now lost all their three games at the tournament so far, were hampered majorly by an injury to ace spinner Rashid Khan as he could not take the field for the second innings.
“Our bowlers started well. The wickets did not support the fast bowlers, so we missed out on Rashid. I just tell the boys to keep calm, and show a little more composure in the middle. We missed out on saving some boundaries too and we were not great in the field, so we have a long way to go - the improvement at this high level of cricket will happen day by day,” a dejected Naib said.
The Afghanistan captain also acknowledged that the batsmen failed to step up on when it was most needed. They lost their first four wickets for four runs after an opening partnership of 66 runs put Afghanistan in a good place.
“Hazrat and Noor were great with the bat. We missed the length of the ball and some of our batsmen threw their wickets away too easily. We have to be able to play out 50 overs, and it is important for us to stay at the wicket.”