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With Shahzad out, Naib hopes Rashid will fox New Zealand

Rashid Khan celebrates trapping Usman Khawaja LBW AFP

Afghanistan will miss his buoyant stroke-making at the top of the order, as well as the experience he provides, but just as great a loss to their long World Cup campaign will be the energy wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad brings to the dressing room. So said captain Gulbadin Naib, a day after it was confirmed Shahzad's long-standing knee complaint would rule him out of the remainder of the tournament.

Shahzad had not exactly lit the World Cup up in two innings, making 0 against Australia and 7 against Sri Lanka. His form before that, however, was good. He had struck 101 off 88 against Ireland, and 55 off 67 against Scotland - both those innings having come in May.

"Shahzad is very energetic, and in the dressing room he's very funny," Gulbadin said ahead of the New Zealand clash in Taunton. "He's always entertaining his team members, so we miss a lot of things he does outside the ground, even. But when you are playing for your country, you've got to do what is right for the team.

"He's a big loss because he's one of the great players for Afghanistan, and I'm upset for him. But the last two to three weeks, he's been struggling with his knee. He wasn't feeling good in the matches. He wasn't able to move at the right time."

Although on the surface, Saturday's match may seem a mismatch between a team that has won both their matches so far, and a side yet to claim any World Cup points, there is at least one battle that promises to be tense. Kane Williamson, one of the best players of spin around, will probably come up against Afghanistan's Rashid Khan - one of legspin bowling's finest purveyors. The two play for the same IPL side, but having faced Rashid in the nets won't necessarily have done Williamson much good, said Gulbadin.

"It's very difficult to face Rashid. In the last two seasons, Rashid and Kane Williamson have been playing together in Sunrisers Hyderabad, but Rashid is not like other bowlers. He's totally different. He has been in our national team for four years, but even then, none of us know what he's bowling in the nets. So it's very difficult to pick him. Rashid is very different - very fast. He doesn't give you time to pick him. So I hope Rashid will be at his best."

Rashid's effectiveness, however, may be curtailed by a Taunton surface that has turned up green on match eve, and seems likelier to assist fast bowling than it does spin. As such, New Zealand's quicks may present a serious challenge to Afghanistan's batsmen, who stumbled against pace against Sri Lanka in their last match. Gulbadin, though, is encouraging his batsmen to play the ball on its merits, without taking the reputation of the likes of Trent Boult to heart.

"If think too much about the names [of the opposition], maybe it's very difficult. If you go with the ball or the bat, maybe it's very easy. I don't think their bowling is that fast. So my plan for the boys is just to play our natural game, and show why we are here."