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Smith labels Blackcaps 'rusty' as T20 World Cup campaign hangs by a thread


Three months on from New Zealand’s international summer of cricket, the Blackcaps entered the T20 World Cup having not played a single official warmup match.

Their readiness for the tournament has been brought into question following an 84-run loss to Afghanistan on Saturday. Winning the toss and electing to bowl first, the Kiwi bowlers struggled against the opening pair of Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran, who raced to 103 before Matt Henry got the initial breakthrough.

Afghanistan reached 159/6 after their twenty overs, requiring New Zealand to score at 7.79 runs an over – however, the Blackcaps fell well short of the mark, bowled out in the 16th over.

SENZ’s Ian Smith is currently at the World Cup commentating for the ICC, witnessing the collapse alongside fellow former Blackcaps Simon Doull, Danny Morrison, and former White Ferns wicketkeeper Katey Martin.

The Blackcaps have gone into the World Cup without a specialist keeper, instead relying on Devon Conway, with Finn Allen as his potential backup.

“He (Conway) looked decidedly rusty, in fact very average, he looked down on practice with the gloves on. And he’s been out of form with the bat for a little while,” Smith told SENZ Mornings.

“Apart from the fact that he’s had injures, Conway played no cricket in the IPL even though he was contracted, and still they maintained they didn’t need to have anything like a specialist wicketkeeper in this tournament.”

New Zealand’s best performance with the bat came from Glenn Phillips in the No. 5 spot, hitting 18 off 18 balls, with Henry the only other batter to reach double digits.

“They missed opportunities to put pressure on Afghanistan early on, one partnership was all they needed to win the game. It was probably one of the worst performances I’ve seen, when you consider all aspects of the game, from a Blackcaps side that I can recall,” Smith said.

“It was underdone, it was rusty, it was disorganised – they were so far not ready it was not funny.”

One player of concern to Smith is Finn Allen - the Blackcaps opener dropped what looked to be a certain catch in the 5th over, before being bowled first ball by Fazalhaq Farooqi.

“Finn Allen has got a bit to prove, I’ve been saying this for a while – they basically ended the career for Martin Guptill to make way for Allen. They couldn’t pick him in the 50-over World Cup because he wasn’t consistent enough at that point, and I don’t see much difference between then and now,” Smith added.

While Afghanistan put pressure on with the bat, Smith admits that the Blackcaps never found a way to respond. It raises further alarm bells for the cricket commentator about New Zealand’s chances in the tournament, harking back to the numerous dropped catches seen during the home summer.

“One thing New Zealand has always done over the years is field well as a unit. We’ve been able to answer (to that) pressure with some really good fielding performances, we aren’t doing it at the moment.

“Here again, we start with a poor performance, and I kept going back to Kane Williamson (in the post-match interview) and he said ‘we lost it in the first ten overs’ because that set the tone,” Smithy recalled.

“The only way you get those things sorted is to play cricket.”

Afghanistan currently sits top of Group C on 4 points and an impressive net run rate of +5.225, West Indies are second also undefeated with a +3.574 net RR.

“They demand respect from every team in the world now, Afghanistan, they were tailor made perfectly for those pitch conditions and they are playing such good cricket that they are now considered over here as one of the favourites.”

New Zealand have only played one match so far at the T20 World Cup, but their schedule is set to ramp up with West Indies on June 13, Uganda on June 15, and Papua New Guinea on June 18.

“They’ve got to beat the West Indies, and hope that they get beaten by Afghanistan, because New Zealand’s run rate situation is so poor – we’re going to be very behind the eight ball when it comes to that,” Smith lamented.

“I just don’t know they’re going to get up to speed from the flat performance they had the other day. What kind of team are they going to pick? Are they going to make any changes? The people they bring in haven’t played any cricket either.”

Listen to the full interview below:

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