On any other day, in any other situation, this would have been a routine fixture for New Zealand, and they have been thinking the several different ways they could smash Afghanistan by.
But this time, the Kiwis have added pressure on them. This is virtually a quarter-final tie for them against a much weaker side but a side that has the ability and the tools to surprise.
The match will have a much, much larger audience than usual, and that is due to India and its audience’s interest in it. If New Zealand beat Afghanistan, it’s the end of the story and road for India in this World Cup, and their fixture the next day against Namibia would be rendered meaningless.
But if the Black Caps lose, it would keep the door open for India to thrash Namibia the next day and complete what had seemed impossible until a few days ago: qualify for the semi-finals despite losing both their opening matches by big margins.
Afghanistan do have talent, especially in their spin department, but let’s not kid ourselves. There is no way they should be able to beat a New Zealand side if all goes according to plan.
However, Afghan spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman have what it takes to make any plan go awry. The problem is that Rahman, the Robin to Rashid’s Batman, has been missing due to a mysterious injury no one knows of for the last two days.
Afghanistan faced a storm of allegations after their lopsided loss to India. But if they are to beat New Zealand now, then the backlash from those hatching conspiracy theories will be immense.
Their best chance will be to hope that the Abu Dhabi wicket is spin-friendly and Rahman can shake off whatever injury has had him sidelined.