Taunton   -   New Zealand, coming fresh after a nervy win against Bangladesh, will aim for an improved batting performance when they take on Afghanistan in their third match of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 in Taunton on Saturday.

New Zealand, much like they did in 2015, have been building up their success in the tournament with their aggressive but disciplined fast bowling. While Matt Henry is leading the wicket-takers’ list, Trent Boult, the No. 2 ranked bowler on the MRF Tyres ICC Bowling Rankings, has made his presence felt. Adding to this is the deception of Colin de Grandhomme, which has accounted for Virat Kohli, Angelo Mattews and Shakib Al Hasan on this tour so far; also not to forget Mitchell Santner’s guile.

The batting though slipped terribly in the second half of the run-chase against Bangladesh, before Santner saw them home. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor will hope for more support from the middle order against the skilled Afghanistan bowling unit. Still searching for their first win, Afghanistan will regret the lost opportunity against Sri Lanka, as their batting failed after the bowlers had set it up. While the spin trio lived up to its reputation, the new ball bowlers can ill-afford indiscipline against the aggressive duo of Guptill and Munro. The batting, barring Najibullah Zadran, has so far seemed to lack the intensity and determination required at the biggest stage. Things have worsened for the Gulbadin Naib led side, as the explosive wicket-keeper batsman, Mohammad Shahzad, has been ruled out of the remainder of the tournament due to a knee injury.

Not a big turner of the ball, certainly capable to overturn the flow of a cricket match, Mohammad Nabi once again proved his immense skills as an off-spinner against Sri Lanka. He will look to bring his experience into play once again, to try and fetch the first points for Afghanistan in this World Cup.

Arguably the best player of spin bowling in the Kiwi set-up, Kane Williamson’s skill and experience would come in handy against his IPL teammates, Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, in the middle overs. The New Zealand skipper would look to anchor the innings as the other batsmen will try to exploit the short boundaries at Taunton.

A few blustery afternoon showers can be expected on an otherwise sunny day at Taunton. Short boundaries will make things difficult for the bowlers, much like it did in the last men’s ODI hosted at this venue 20 years ago, when Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid stitched a 318-run partnership against Sri Lanka – a World Cup record till 2015.