A confident New Zealand, with two victories, will be taking on the underdog Afghanistan in their first face-off since their 2015 World Cup, which was rather a one-sided affair for the Kiwis.
On the other hand, it can only turn better for the Asian team with two defeats, which will be looking forward to bounce back in the game. The two teams will be taking on each other in a day-nigher at Taunton today (June 8) at 6 pm (IST).
Taunton has till date hosted only three ODI matches with Indian fans certainly remembering the venue because of the record partnership put up by Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly at this stadium during the 1999 World Cup.
New Zealand played their last match against Bangladesh, defeating them by two wickets. However, losing eight wickets while chasing 244 is certainly not an exemplar performance by the mighty Kiwis, and they should have crossed the line with more comfort.
But, the bowling has been splendid so far and successful in sending all their batsmen back to the pavilion in both the games. Afghanistan batsmen will certainly have to put up a strong defence to the Kiwis’ bowling attack.
Meanwhile, the Asian side has been hit by a major blow as wicket keeper and opener Mohammad Shahzad has been ruled out of the tournament due to a knee injury. The team will hope that Nabi, who turned out to be nightmare for the Sri Lankan batsmen in the previous game, maintains the same form.
Depending on the weather and pitch conditions in Taunton, the teams will most probably take a call on the given day. But with success in both the games while chasing, New Zealand may resort to bowling first.
Afghanistan: The Gulbadin Naib-led side have injury concerns and have tweaked a bit their line-up. With Shahzad injured, Noor Ali Zadran will take the opening slot and Ikram Ali Khil will most likely be the wicket keeper batting in the lower middle order.
Predicted XI: Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zarzai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadram, Rashid Khan, Ikram Ali Khil, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
New Zealand: Tim Southee not regaining full fitness means that the Kiwis will stick to the same playing XI.
Possible XI: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Jimmy Neesham, Tom Latham, Colin de Grandhomee, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.
Stats that Matter:
Taunton will be hosting its first ODI in 20 years. Also, Kiwis’ Williamson has lost his wicket to spinners six times in 2019.