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Ferguson shows up in Chennai, Afghanistan's batting doesn't

Last updated on 19 Oct 2023 | 01:54 AM
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Ferguson shows up in Chennai, Afghanistan's batting doesn't

In many ways, it was the same old story for Afghanistan - getting exposed on the fronts that have been hampering their progress for a while

The Afghan jalebi was too hard to chew for England, but the efficient Kiwis gobbled it up like Pacman. It was one of the quickest finishes in this World Cup. Afghanistan were in the game for 40 overs in the first innings. Thereon, it was one-way traffic as New Zealand cruised to their fourth straight win. 

In many ways, it was the same old story for Afghanistan. They were exposed on the same fronts that have been hampering their progress for a while, be it batting, bowling or fielding. The same is panning out in the World Cup thus far. 

We look back at key takeaways from New Zealand's crushing win over the Afghans in Match 16

Another drop??  

"Well, we dropped a catch in the second over and we dropped a few catches, really," said Afghanistan’s head coach Jonathan Trott after the match. “We dropped Ravindra on nought, we dropped Young on nought. So that sort of gives a little bit of momentum to the opposition,” he added. 

Afghanistan provided as many as six lives to the Kiwi batters, spilling a chance in the 2nd, 9th, 20th, 41st, 43rd and 46th over of the New Zealand innings. 

At 68.8%, Afghanistan have the lowest catching efficiency since 2022. This World Cup is even poor - 55.6%. Their tally of net runs saved is at -9, again the worst among all teams. 

 "The team was doing good, but the fielding, because of that we fell a little bit down," accepted the skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi after the defeat. 

Given bowling is their stronger suit, support from the fielders is paramount to Afghanistan’s success in this World Cup. However, going by the numbers, they have established themselves as the worst fielding unit of the tournament at present. 

Too much work to do for spinners? 

Unable to break the Glenn Phillips - Tom Latham stand, Afghanistan conceded 103 runs in the last ten overs. The pacers here leaked 78 of those runs in only six overs - an economy of 13 runs per over. The spinners went for only 25 runs from four overs. 

In ODIs since 2022, Afghanistan is the only World Cup side with an economy of under seven in the last ten overs - 6.8. However, considering only the pacers, they have an economy of 8.4, second worst after Sri Lanka (8.9). 

Like it is the pacers’ job to set it up for the spinners in the middle, the Afghan pacers need their spin stalwarts to strike consistently in the middle overs to be effective at the death.

Bowling spin in the middle overs, Afghanistan have the best economy - 4.6 - but their bowling average is only the fourth best. 

Among the six missed chances that Afghanistan provided the Kiwis in the field, four came against the spinners. Yet, the likes of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi were expected to create more pressure on a Chennai track that had turn and bounce for the spinners. For a major part of their innings, the 144-run stand between Phillips and Latham was unperturbed. 

Call it the inadequacy of their pacers or demanding too much from the celebrated trio of Mujeeb, Rashid and Mohammad Nabi, the loopholes in Afghanistan’s bowling resources are getting exposed. 

Too slow with the bat

Afghanistan never gained any momentum with the bat. But it’s the third wicket stand that was particularly painful to watch. Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi added only 16 runs from 47 deliveries after the openers fell at 27/2. Chasing an above-par total, the number 3 and number 4 batters of the side batted in Test match fashion, scoring at only two runs per over. It neither rebuilt the innings for Afghanistan nor took them closer to the target. It only delayed the inevitable. 

This is a long-lasting problem in Afghanistan’s batting order. They lack madness in the middle.

In ODIs since 2022, they have the lowest run-rate for batters at numbers three and four. Their average (30.6) is only better than Netherlands’. 

Shahidi and Shah have played 24 innings each at these spots in this time period. No one else has played more than one. 

Both of them are slow starters with the bat. Shah has a strike-rate of only 60.8 in his first 25 balls of the innings since 2022. Shahidi is marginally behind at 60.6. 

From their current squad, Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman are the only three batters with a strike-rate above 80 in the first 25 balls of the innings. Consequently, barring the win against England, Afghanistan have finished their innings at an under-par score in each of the three defeats. 

They also rely heavily on their top-order. The have the biggest difference in batting average between the openers and the following four batters. 

Afghanistan’s innings against New Zealand was synonymous of the long-lasting issues in their batting - too much reliance on their opener and no intent in the middle-order to take the game on. The only plan they had was to dig deep but without any movement towards the target.

Shahidi and Shah, the most experienced batters on their batting card, need to step up for Afghanistan to narrow down the gap with other flexible middle-orders in the tournament. 

Ferguson completes the Kiwi attack

You go through the list of highest wicket-takers in the middle-overs this World Cup thus far and there is only one pacer in top seven - Lockie Ferguson. His return to wicket-taking form has been the biggest positive for New Zealand from their two matches in Chennai. 

Before this World Cup, Ferguson averaged 55.3 during the middle-overs at an economy of 6.2. He had conceded 44 extras. 

The right-arm seamer has roared back in his trademark style - hitting the back-of-a-length area. Ferguson has landed 38.3% of his deliveries in that area during the middle-overs. There is another 22.5% in the short-pitch region that has brought him three wickets. He has bowled only five of his 25 overs in the competition outside this phase. 

The ball has gripped on the Chennai surface. At an average speed of 139 kph in the World Cup (subjected to data available), Ferguson has pounded the pitch hard to vindicate the enforcer’s tag.

His form has completed New Zealand’s bowling attack. Before the World Cup, they had modest numbers in the middle-overs, taming the hard good work done with the new ball. With Ferguson’s missing piece showing up, New Zealand have the best bowling numbers on most criterias - be it middle-overs, pace bowling, economy or bowling average. 

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