ICC World Cup 2015, New Zealand vs Afghanistan: Preview
Afghanistan put a brave spin on their arduous World Cup travel schedule Saturday as they prepared to "come back strongly" against unbeaten New Zealand in Napier.
As if playing the tournament top dogs was not tough enough, Afghanistan face New Zealand after their second trans-Tasman crossing in a week.
"It`s true to say that we`re a bit weary. We`re trying to put a positive spin on it," said coach Andy Moles whose side are estimated to have travelled 15,000km on their World Cup odyssey over the last three weeks.
After playing Scotland in the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin late last week, the tournament minnows flew to Perth on the west coast of Australia to play the Australians before returning to Napier in the North Island of New Zealand for Sunday`s game.
Afghanistan have already provided one of the highlights of the World Cup by celebrating their inaugural entry into cricket`s most prestigious ODI tournament with a one-wicket victory over Scotland.
Moles said to secure a win and to face top-tier World Cup regulars such as Australia and New Zealand can only benefit Afghanistan and far outweighs the difficulties with their travel itinerary
"It`s not ideal, but we`re not going to use it in any way as an excuse," Moles said.
"One thing about these Afghans, they`re very passionate and proud people and they`re fighters. Their history back at home shows that they`re full of fight.
"They want to make sure in every fixture we play, we want to compete. It didn`t happen in Australia. We know we`re in for a very tough examination again (against New Zealand).
"But as a group of both coaching staff and individuals, we`re looking forward to showing what qualities we do have in the team."
Their maiden World Cup outing was a loss to Bangladesh by 105 runs followed by a four-wicket defeat by Sri Lanka, the win over Scotland and then a thrashing by Australia who made 417-6 and bowled Afghanistan out for 142.
Afghanistan wicketkeeper Afsar Zazai referred to the Australia loss as "a bad day" but said they would "come back strongly against New Zealand."
Moles described the hiding in Perth as "an experience that was a bit brutal", and said it highlighted the need for emerging nations to be provided games against top teams outside World Cups
"It becomes a common theme here from all the Associates. When you come across these type of players once every four years, it`s difficult.
"The guys have got to face 150km/h-plus bowlers on probably the quickest bouncers` wicket in the world. It`s totally alien to them."
Moles said to have a win in their first World Cup was "a huge positive" and he was impressed with how Hamid Hassan and Samiullah Shenwari had measured up.
Hassan took one for 32 off 10 against Scotland and three for 45 against Sri Lanka while Shenwari has scores of 42, 96, 38 and 17 from his four innings so far.