New Zealand survived a late batting collapse and a stirring fight back by minnows Afghanistan before maintaining its unbeaten record at cricket's under-19 World Cup with a slender eight-run victory on Queensland's Sunshine Coast today.
The New Zealanders are now assured of advancing to the quarterfinals from pool B but the quality of their performances against one of the sport's developing nations suggest they will struggle in the knock out stages.
Electing to bat first at the Kev Hackney Oval in Buderim, New Zealand dismissed for 198 in the 50th over, losing their last six wickets for just 35 runs.
They were also vulnerable at 20-3 before Robert McDonnell (69) and Harry Walsh (52) combined to post a 108 run stand before the innings again lost impetus.
Pace duo Sayed Shirzad (4-34) and Yamin Ahmadzai (4-35) posed plenty of problems during their 10 over allocations and then the Afghani lower order compensated for the deficiencies if their specialist batsman by reviving run chase that had slumped to 26-5 inside 10 overs.
Najibullah Zaran's 69 and 42 from wicketkeeper Afsar Khan carried Afghanistan well past three figures and New Zealand's victory was only assured when the underdogs required 17 from the final over.
Opening bowler Matthew Quinn returned to deliver two accurate overs at the death to finish with the excellent figures of 4-26 from nine overs; Jacob Duffy (4-40) also claimed early wickets before dislodging the combative Zaran with 10 overs remaining.
Afghanistan at least had the satisfaction of batting out their overs as they closed on 190-9.
New Zealand opened their campaign with a 39-run victory over Scotland and finish pool play against Pakistan on Thursday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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