Kane Williamson refused to take any credit for Jimmy Neesham’s career-best bowling performance but admits the all-rounder was the key to New Zealand’s comfortable victory over Afghanistan.
The Afghans had started well in Taunton, moving to 66 for no loss, when batting first before Neesham broke the opening partnership and then removed four other members of the top seven to skittle the Asian side for 172.
His five for 31 was his first five-for at international level and his best figures in any game of professional cricket – something that was all the more remarkable considering he’d gone at seven-an-over and 12-an-over in the first two games of this World Cup.
The BLACKCAPS batsmen chased down the modest total with ease to notch a seven-wicket win and after using Neesham as a first-change bowler alongside Lockie Ferguson, who took four for 37, Williamson claims the Taunton deck was tailor-made for the all-rounder’s bowling style.
“I wish I could claim some of the credit,” smiled the BLACKCAPS skipper. “Jimmy bowled beautifully. It was a different surface that perhaps suited him a little bit more – someone who runs in and hit the wicket hard.
“We saw that the guys from both sides who did that got a bit of bounce and movement out of it.
“He bowled some beautiful deliveries and broke a crucial partnership at the top. He deserves all credit he’ll get for a five-for, which is outstanding.
“We know how talented Afghanistan are and I know it first-hand from guys I’ve played with. They’re very savvy, very cagey in how they operate and so it was a really good performance from us.
“Those two guys [Ferguson and Neesham] have been crucial in very different roles for us. We’ve seen examples of both thriving in last three games.
“When Jimmy is bowling well, he can get good pace out of the surface. They complement each other along with the other bowlers in the attack.”
Against Bangladesh last time out, New Zealand were cruising in their chase of 245 but a middle-order collapse ensured some late-night drama before a nervy two-wicket triumph.
Losing Martin Guptill to the first ball of the innings against Afghanistan could have sparked similar events but Williamson’s unbeaten 79 and Ross Taylor’s 48 paced a much more comfortable seven-wicket victory.
That’s now three successful chases in three ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 games and the skipper is confident the BLACKCAPS are heading in the right direction.
“The nature of having chased three times means that it’s been a little bit different each time and we’ve had to adapt to chase the total down clinically each time,” added Williamson.
“This game was an improvement on the last game, which is main thing. Every day you turn up, you have different opposition at a different ground – it’s about adapting to what is in front of you.
“It was nice to build a couple of partnerships – that’s important when you’re chasing. With the three mid-level totals we’ve been chasing, you want to get a bit of stability going into later overs.
“It’s nice to have early wins but it’s about doing the job at hand. The team have put in some strong performances but it’s important to move on and get ready for next challenge.”