New Zealand were sent into a spin by Bangladesh last time out but coach Gary Stead isn’t concerned about how his side will cope with another slow-bowling onslaught from Afghanistan.
Every member of the Black Caps’ top six perished to a spinner against Bangladesh, as what looked like a relatively sedate chase of 244 turned into a late-night thriller at the Oval, before Stead’s men eventually edged to a two-wicket victory.
New Zealand faced 27 overs of spin in that game and can expect a similar amount from Afghanistan in Taunton – with the Asian side boasting the likes of right-arm off-spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, as well as ‘mystery’ leggie Rashid Khan, in their bowling attack.
But Stead isn’t worried about any sort of Achilles heel having been exposed as his team aim to make it three wins from three in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
“Afghanistan are definitely a force and spin is one of their strength areas,” admitted Stead. “But it’s not worth putting too much focus on our top six all getting out to spinners because almost 30 overs of the 47 were spin anyway.
“We expect that against some of the Asian sides in particular. We have played spin well in the past and maybe the pressure of moment the other night made for some poor decisions.
“We’ve certainly done homework on Rashid, Mujeeb and Nabi – the likes of those guys who will definitely be a force for Afghanistan.
“We’re also expecting a wicket with good pace in it at Taunton. It does spin for four-day games here but for the World Cup it’s well-grassed, so should have some good pace.”
New Zealand fell from 160/2 to 218/7 against Bangladesh before recovering to knock off the remaining 27 runs for the loss of just one more wicket.
That collapse prompted questions about the Black Caps’ middle order behind their star-studded top four but Stead is convinced they have the personnel to thrive.
“I don’t worry about it,” he added. “If Tom Latham [number five] had got 30 or 40 not out, as he has done many times in the past, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
“We think the balance we have in our team provides some solidarity with the three-four-five of [Kane] Williamson, [Ross] Taylor and [Tom] Latham.
“Then we have a little bit of power coming in after that with the likes of [Jimmy] Neesham, [Colin] de Grandhomme and [Mitchell] Santner, who can provide the icing to the cake.
“If we’re honest with ourselves, from the position we were in we should’ve been walking off against Bangladesh with a six-wicket win but strange things can happen in cricket.
“I’m just thankful we were on the right side of it and got the two points.”