Napier (New Zealand), Mar 7: After being flattened by an Australian "freight train" this week, Afghanistan face the unenviable task of picking themselves up to face New Zealand's ICC World Cup juggernaut at McLean Park tomorrow.
Black Caps paceman Tim Southee said the New Zealanders were intent on maintaining momentum against Afghanistan, who slumped to a tournament record 275-defeat against Australia in Perth on Wednesday. He said the Afghans should expect no mercy as New Zealand seek to extend their perfect 4-0 winning record at this year's tournament.
"The minnows have performed strongly at times in this tournament and you can't afford to ease off because they're not a more recognised opponent," Southee told reporters.
"We've still got to stick to our game plan and our brand of cricket, so nothing changes from our point of view." New Zealand have already qualified for the quarter-finals and wrap up their Pool A matches against Afghanistan and then Bangladesh (in Hamilton on March 13).
"These two games are important to try to win because it takes us to the top of the pool to give ourselves, hopefully, a better run into the final," all rounder Corey Anderson said.
Anderson has likened New Zealand's campaign to a juggernaut, while Afghanistan coach Andy Moles said his side "ran into a freight train" against Australia.
"I'll be doing my best to make sure they don't go into their shells," said Englishman Moles, who is familiar with New Zealand conditions after a brief stint coaching the Black Caps in 2008-09.
"I'll keep telling them to express themselves and play with the freedom Afghanistan cricket has been known for." Afghanistan may have stumbled against Australia, but the non-Test playing nation has enjoyed a successful debut at the World Cup after just six years playing one-day internationals (ODIs).
They defeated fellow minnows Scotland and came close to an upset against Sri Lanka before a Mahela Jayawardene century spared the former world champions' blushes.
New Zealand and Afghanistan have never played an ODI and Black Caps coach Mike Hesson said he would not be underestimating Moles team. It's a mantra repeated every time a Test-nation plays an associate but has a ring of truth coming from Hesson, who saw Afghanistan's pace attack first-hand when he coached Kenya in 2011-12.
"They have three guys who bowl over 140km/h and they can swing it," he said of quicks Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan.
'It should be a good contest'
"Generally, their batsmen don't die wondering. It should be a good contest. We have to show them due respect and make sure we put in a good performance."
Hesson said in-form skipper Brendon McCullum was fit to play after a nasty knock from a Mitchell Johnson delivery against Australia resulted in his forearm swelling up like "Popeye".
New Zealand have fielded the same team for all of their four wins do far leaving remaining squad players, Tom Latham, Nathan McCullum, Mitchell McClenaghan and Kyle Mills, kicking their heels.
The Afghanistan match would appear an ideal opportunity to give them some game time but Hesson was cagey about whether he plans to rotate his squad, saying his first-choice team was well rested.
"When you have a week between games, if you leave out some of your key players, it can be two weeks before they play again, which is a long time," he said.
Match starts 3.30 AM IST