Cricket World Cup: New Zealand beat Afghanistan to make it three wins from three
|ICC Men's Cricket World Cup, Taunton:|
|Afghanistan 172 (41.1 overs): Hashmatullah 59; Neesham 5-31, Ferguson 4-37|
|New Zealand 173-3 (32.1 overs): Williamson 79*; Aftab 3-45|
|New Zealand won by seven wickets|
|Scorecard; Table; Schedule|
New Zealand made it three wins from three as Jimmy Neesham and Lockie Ferguson found form with the ball in a seven-wicket win against Afghanistan.
Neesham (5-31) and Ferguson (4-37) ran through the top and middle order as Afghanistan were bowled out for 172.
Despite losing Martin Guptill first ball and Colin Munro cheaply, New Zealand coasted to their target with 17.5 overs to spare.
Captain Kane Williamson led the way with an unbeaten 79 from 99 balls.
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It was a convincing win for New Zealand to go alongside their 10-wicket and two-wicket victories against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh respectively.
Williamson and Ross Taylor (48) added 89 for the third wicket, ensuring the Black Caps were well on course to win before the new permanent floodlights at Taunton could take full effect.
But despite taking a two-point lead at the top of the table, they arguably missed out on further boosting their net run-rate by making ponderous progress to the target of 173, taking until the 25th over for Taylor to hit their first six of the innings.
New Zealand could be joined at the top on six points by Australia if they beat India at The Oval on Sunday.
Afghanistan fell to their third defeat in three, falling short with the bat and proving error-prone in the field once again.
That was despite some entertaining flourishes at the top of the order from Hazratullah Zazai (34) and Noor Ali Zadran (31) and a gutsy 59 from Hashmatullah Shahidi.
Seamer Aftab Alam also showed his potential, taking all three of New Zealand's wickets to fall.
But they were hampered by the loss of leg-spinner Rashid Khan midway through the game with a head injury, caused when he was hit on the helmet and bowled for nought after ducking into a short ball from Ferguson.
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Black Caps change bowlers take centre stage
Much of the talk surrounding New Zealand's two wins before this game centred around the potency of new-ball pairing Matt Henry and Trent Boult.
With another green-tinged wicket to bowl first on and cloudy skies above, it looked set for more of the same.
But it was first-change seamers Neesham and Ferguson who shined after Henry and Boult went wicketless in the opening powerplay.
Neesham, 28, a player who contemplated retirement just 18 months ago as form and fitness deserted him, turned the game firmly in his side's direction as Ferguson provided unerring support from the other end.
The right-armers claimed a combined 9-68 from their 19.1 overs, helping reduce Afghanistan from 66-0 to 70-4 in the space of 21 balls.
Ferguson reeled off three consecutive maidens at the start of his spell, showing Test match-esque control and penetration while also bowling to fields that showed more resemblance to the red-ball game.
Once his 10 overs were done, Neesham had returned the best figures of the tournament so far and just his second five-wicket haul at any level in the format.
Ferguson also managed to move one ahead of team-mate Henry to become the overall leading wicket-taker on eight.
Left-armer Boult, meanwhile, was left wicketless for the first time in a World Cup game but still returned a respectable 0-34 off his 10 overs.
New Zealand are next in action on Thursday against winless South Africa at Trent Bridge.
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Afghanistan show flair and naivety once more
Afghanistan have enjoyed a rapid rise up through the associate nations divisions and their elevation to Test status in the past year has made theirs a fairytale story.
After losing big-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad to injury for the rest of the tournament before this game, it meant a new opening partner for Hazratullah in Noor Ali.
The pair plundered the boundaries off Henry and Boult to guide them to 61-0 at the end of the first powerplay.
But after the euphoria came the comedown.
Neesham and Ferguson's partnership reduced them from 66-0 to 70-4 and after a couple of short rain breaks, it became 109-6.
But there was to be one shining light with the bat as Hashmatullah showed he could stick around and then bat with the tail to reach his eighth ODI half-century.
Despite batting for the longest of their three innings to date, Afghanistan were dismissed at the start of the 42nd over. Of greater concern looking ahead would have been the manner in which Rashid was both dismissed and subsequently unable to play any further part in the game.
He ducked into a short ball from Ferguson that unfortunately ricocheted off his helmet grille and on to his off stump.
It denied the Taunton crowd a chance to see the leg-spinner try and force a win for his side.
He will continue to be monitored by team doctors in the lead up to their next match against South Africa on Saturday, 15 June.
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson: "It was nice to build a couple of partnerships and some time in the middle while chasing a score. You want to try and get a bit of mobility going in this long tournament.
"It was a nice performance and a slight improvement on the other night against Bangladesh."
On Jimmy Neesham's 5-31: "Jimmy bowled beautifully. We've seen in our three games so far how our attack compliment each other and it's great to see them all playing a part in wins."
Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib: "We made some bad decisions and again we missed out on playing the full 50 overs. If we had taken all those up, maybe we could have given ourselves more of a chance.
"Rashid Khan is feeling a bit better now and is resting up.
"The doctors advised him as a precaution when he has a heart rate of more than 140bpm to stay off the field and get some rest.
"He's feeling well now and Afghani people are strong, so we're hopeful he'll be OK to play in our next game."
Ex-New Zealand captain Jeremy Coney on TMS: "New Zealand are in a place where you would expect them to be. It was a nice gentle start to the competition for them. It is about to get tougher for them, though, and we'll find out in the next four matches whether they're going to reach the semi-finals."