NAPIER: New Zealand completed their fifth straight win in the World Cup when they swept aside Afghanistan Sunday but felt the tournament has yet to properly begin, according to team veteran Daniel Vettori.
In all five games, including against Australia and England, New Zealand have bowled out the opposition inside 50 overs with an aggressive attack blending Vettori’s spin with swing bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
Vettori, who racked up another milestone in his stellar career when he took his 300th ODI wicket at McLean Park on Sunday — returning figures of four for 18 — said the focus was what lies ahead for the team rather than individual feats.
“It’s purely about winning games, and that’s what we’ve been able to do so far, and we can hopefully continue in the important knockout stages,” he said.
The quarter-finals “is where it really starts”, and form through the pool stages could not be a consideration, he said dismissing South Africa’s shock 29-run loss on Saturday to Pakistan.
“All the teams that eventually make it (to the play-offs) have got match winners. So you can’t sit back and say a team’s not in form or haven’t played well because you go into it thinking that a team’s going to play their best.
“Anyone you would come up against in that quarter-final is going to be a tough opposition. We look at it through I suppose a positive prism that they’ve got good players. There is no real thought that they’re out of form or not playing well.”
The 36-year-old Vettori is New Zealand’s most accomplished ODI bowler and on Sunday became the 12th player and first New Zealander to reach the 300 wicket milestone.
He finished his 291st ODI with 302 wickets, at an average 31.62, and such was the comprehensive nature of New Zealand’s win that he did not have a chance to add to his 2,213 ODI runs.
Vettori returned to regular appearances in the New Zealand team late last year after being sidelined by injury for much of the previous three years and went into the World Cup not thinking he would be a central wicket taker.
“I suppose I went into the World Cup not really thinking about that that much,” he said.
“I think we are caught up in the middle of the World Cup. There is an important game on Friday (Bangladesh), and probably the most important game of our careers the following Saturday” in the quarter-finals.
“So maybe in a month or so there will be a chance to look back on it.
Vettori’s first wicket against Afghanistan, when he bowled Usman Ghani in the third over, came in a one-over spell to allow right-arm Tim Southee to change ends with left-arm Trent Boult to make better use of the wind.
He returned five overs later to bowl Nawroz Mangal for his 300th wicket and later took Mohammad Nabi and Afsar Zazai in successive balls to have four wickets for five runs before finishing with four for 18.
Afghanistan were eventually dismissed for 186 with New Zealand chasing down the target in the 37th over with six wickets to spare. (AFP)