New Zealand gears up for Afghanistan match, embracing ‘home advantage’ pitch challenge

Ahead of today’s match with Afghanistan in Chennai, New Zealand’s captain Tom Latham highlighted the importance of adapting to sub-continental pitches and excelling during the middle overs to maintain the team’s winning momentum at the Cricket World Cup.

Latham took over the captaincy from Kane Williamson after Williamson’s tournament-ending injury during New Zealand’s eight-wicket victory over Bangladesh last Friday, marking the team’s third consecutive win, despite being finalists in 2015 and 2019.

“Our approach is centered on adapting to each pitch’s unique characteristics. Surfaces may vary from one another and may evolve throughout a 50-over innings. Adapting effectively will give us a competitive edge. In white-ball cricket, maintaining an aggressive approach through the middle stages, where the game tends to slow down, is a challenge. We strive to remain proactive and continuously seek wicket-taking opportunities,” Latham addressed the media during a press conference on Tuesday.

New Zealand faces Afghanistan, who are riding high on the back of a remarkable 69-run victory over defending champions England on Sunday. This victory marked their first-ever win over a Test-playing nation at a World Cup and provided a much-needed boost after suffering losses in their initial two matches.

Hashmatullah Shahidi, the captain of Afghanistan, emphasized the familiarity of Chennai as a venue for his team.

“India has been our second home for two to three years. We held our preparation camp for the 2019 World Cup at this ground, spending 40 days here. The conditions here closely resemble those in Afghanistan, which provides us with an extra advantage,” he said.

Shahidi acknowledged the need for Afghanistan to address their recurring issue of middle-order collapses if they aspire to build on their sensational victory against England.