The Black Caps play in their third match of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, taking on Afghanistan in Taunton early tomorrow morning. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know – well, at least most of what you need to know - about the clash.
Finally, a new team! Afghanistan, aye? What's their deal?
Yep, after two games against teams they've seen a lot of recently, the Black Caps now go up against Afghanistan, who have started their campaign with a seven-wicket loss to Australia, and a 34-run defeat to Sri Lanka. It will be just the second time the two sides face off, after their debut meeting at the last World Cup.
I barely remember that game.
It wasn't the most exciting contest. Afghanistan were reduced to 59-6 at McLean Park in Napier as Daniel Vettori took 4-18 and Trent Boult 3-34, before a laboured 54 from 112 balls from Samiullah Shinwari and a run-a-ball 56 from Najibullah Zadran took them to 186 all out. The Black Caps easily chased it down with 14 overs and six wickets to spare.
Who from the Black Caps will be backing up from four years ago?
Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Trent Boult all played in that victory.
Do they have any other experience playing against Afghanistan players?
Williamson has played alongside Rashid Khan in the Indian Premier League at Sunrisers Hyderabad, while other Black Caps will have faced him on the international Twenty20 circuit. However, as Afghanistan captain Gulbardin Naib noted, that may not necessarily be an advantage when it comes to facing him tomorrow.
"Rashid is not like other bowlers – he's been with the national side the last four years, and still nobody knows how he bowls in the nets – it's very difficult to pick him. I hope he [will be at] his best."
Rashid is obviously their star, is there anyone else the Black Caps will be planning for?
Their spinners, mostly. In Rashid, Mohammad Nabi – who shone against Sri Lanka – and 18 year old Mujeeb Ur Rahman, they have three tweakers who could cause some problems.
"We've certainly done our homework on Rashid and Mujeeb and Nabi – those guys who are definitely going to be a force for Afghanistan," said Black Caps head coach Gary Stead.
I suppose they will hardly need to be worried – the Black Caps won't lose this one, right?
It would be a historic shock if they did. Afghanistan's seam bowling isn't of the same standard as their spinners, and their batting is comfortably the worst at the tournament. Some people got caught up in the hype before the tournament, picking Afghanistan for major upsets, but they may have missed their best - and only realistic - chance to claim a victory at the Cup when they let Sri Lanka off the hook.
Should Black Caps fans be concerned about their batting against spin though?
Possibly. Six wickets lost to spinners against Bangladesh wasn't great, although as Stead pointed out, when a team bowls 28 overs of spin, you're probably going to lose more wickets to them than the seamers.
"We've played spin well in the past and I think the pressure of the moment the other night made for some poor decisions," said Stead.
"When it gets tight like that you can panic, but there was enough calmness shown there at the end. We took some poor options at times, but hopefully we'll be better for it next time."
Will the wicket will help the spinners? Isn't it meant to turn at Taunton?
Usually, it does a bit, but a brief look at the wicket before rain came revealed a greenish surface, which could again be potentially suited to the Black Caps' seamers. This was potentially set to be Ish Sodhi's best chance to play, but that doesn't look likely now – but the wicket also could slightly negate Afghanistan's strength, so there shouldn't be too many complaints from the Black Caps.
So probably no Sodhi then – any chance of other changes?
Potentially. Henry Nicholls is back in consideration for selection, and it stands to reason that tomorrow's clash could be an excellent opportunity to give him a chance alongside Martin Guptill at the top of the order for the Black Caps.
Tim Southee isn't fit yet though, so Nicholls would likely be the only change to the XI which beat Bangladesh.
You mentioned it raining. It's not going to be a rainout is it? That would be disastrous.
No, the weather forecast is good for tomorrow. The outfield might take some time to dry out after some fairly heavy rain today, but with the game starting at 1.30pm local time, there should be plenty of time to get underway for a full allotment.
So, how do I follow the game then? It is worth getting up for, right?
Sure, why not. These games only come around every four years, after all, so you may as well tune in to live commentary on Radio Sport, and live updates on nzherald.co.nz. I will also be bringing you all the post-match reaction from the early hours in Taunton.
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT