New Zealand's Martin Guptill (L) shakes hands with Australia's Josh Hazlewood
Sydney (AFP) - Holders Australia suffered a thumping by New Zealand in their Twenty20 World Cup opener but England launched their title charge with a win over Afghanistan on Saturday.
After a week of first-round matches in Australia, the World Cup hit high gear with the Super 12 stage and two of the title favourites in action for the first time.
But Australia and England were to have very different fortunes.
The hosts were on the wrong end of an 89-run thrashing in front of a sell-out Sydney crowd as New Zealand emphatically avenged defeat in the final of last year’s World Cup.
Devon Conway carried his bat with a majestic unbeaten 92 to help New Zealand blast 200-3, before Australia were skittled for 111 in reply.
Conway’s knock came from just 58 balls with seven fours and two sixes, joining a select group to make 90 or more at a World Cup. Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee then both took three wickets each.
It was New Zealand’s first win against Australia in Australia in any format since 2011.
Aaron Finch’s men now have their work cut out to emerge from a tough Group 1 with Afghanistan, England and qualifiers Ireland and Sri Lanka awaiting them. Only the top two make the semi-finals.
“That’s a big loss in the context of the tournament,” said Finch.
“We were just totally outplayed in all three facets. New Zealand came at us hard with the bat and their bowling was so disciplined.
“It hurts. It hurts our net run rate, but we’re still going to be positive.
“I think we still back ourselves that we can win four (matches), and you need a little bit of luck along the way.”
Australia next play Asian champions Sri Lanka on Tuesday. New Zealand face Afghanistan a day after.
“I think for us it’s close to a perfect game as a collective unit,” said man-of-the-match Conway.
- Curran bags five for England -
Sam Curran of England shouts for an appeal against Afghanistan
In contrast to Australia’s dismal start, England were pretty much always in control against Afghanistan in Perth in a five-wicket win.
Sterner tests await in what is the tougher of the two Super 12 groups.
Sam Curran did the bulk of the damage as he returned remarkable figures of 5-10 – the first England bowler to take five wickets in T20Is – and help bundle the Afghans out for a below-par 112 in 19.4 overs.
England were especially impressive in the field with a number of stunning catches, including by Adil Rashid running backwards to complete an excellent take at deep mid-on to send back Najibullah Zadran.
Jos Buttler’s strongly fancied side didn’t sparkle in reply but they got the job done with 11 balls remaining and next play Ireland on Wednesday.
Liam Livingstone was the pick of the England batsmen with an unbeaten 29 off 21 balls to guide them home.
“Coming into the tournament there were a few nerves. To get out there and get a win was fantastic,” said Buttler, who is leading England for the first time at a global tournament and also joined in the catching heroics.
“We were challenged and felt like we had to pay respects to the bowlers. Could have been more fluent, but full credit to Afghanistan,” he added.
Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan skipper, called England “the best T20 team in the world”.
“Boys played really well,” he said, adding: “We’ll learn and we hope we improve in the next game.”
On Sunday arch-rivals India and Pakistan clash in a Group 2 blockbuster and Sri Lanka play Ireland.