Afghanistan bowled and fielded their hearts out in Napier yesterday to win Daniel Vettori's endorsement as prospects to scale the heights.
"They have the makings of an exceptional side," Vettori said last night in Napier after the Black Caps' six-wicket victory in the ICC World Cup.
He thought Afghanistan displayed mongrel through their batting and especially their bowling, via three pacemen clocking more than 140kmh.
But the skipper of the associate nation team, Mohammad Nabi, said life in the premier limited-overs tournament hadn't been easy.
"Every single match we've been travelling 10 to 12 hours so from the next day we have two days of rest so it's difficult to play just after two or three days," Nabi said after a flogging at the hands of Australia at the Waca last Wednesday before jetting to Napier.
Had Afghanistan scored 270 to 280, he felt, they would have given their vibrant seamers a better chance of defending the total yesterday.
"In the whole tournament our top five batsmen didn't click," Nabi said. "It's hard luck for our team that they didn't click but also Vettori bowled brilliantly for the first few overs to take four wickets ... for 15 or 17 runs."
He was hoping the 86-run partnership Samiullah Shenwari and Najibullah Zadran had forged would rub off on their top order.
Corey Anderson had caught Shenwari on the helmet with a bouncer but Nabi said the batsman was fine.
Afghanistan, whose fielding under ex-Black Caps coach Andy Moles looked sharp, now hop on to another flight to Sydney to play against England this Friday in their final pool A match although he had his reservations about beating the struggling test nation.
The gulf between the tiers, Nabi said, was accentuated especially when they had to adjust to their conditions, including world-class bowlers and batsmen.
He would not be drawn into whether Australia or New Zealand were sharper after playing them both.
"Both teams are quite good and quite balanced," he said diplomatically.