TAUNTON welcomed a cricketing carnival on Saturday as the first of the town’s three ICC Cricket World Cup games was held.

The town was chosen to host the second Fanzone of the tournament and the Taunton public embraced it, turning out in force to take part in the various street cricket activities down North Street.

Those games attracted participants of all ages – with five-time Team GB Olympian Jo Pavey adding some stardust - on what felt like a true family occasion, while plenty more were relaxing in deck chairs on Castle Green watching England take on Bangladesh on a big screen.

Mark Randall was one of those spectators and said: “This is fantastic. It's the best thing Taunton has done for a long time. They need to do more things like this - it puts the town on the map."

From 1.30pm, it was game time. Afghanistan supporters were out in force at the County Ground and had plenty to cheer early on as openers Hazratullah Zazai and Noor Ali Zadran found the boundary at will.

Zazai rode his luck at times as he thrashed away at everything, showing scant regard for the line or length of the delivery, but it was terrific entertainment and his six over the Andy Caddick Pavilion was the biggest of the day.

Zadran was more classical in his approach, driving the ball beautifully, as Afghanistan raced to 66-0 in the 11th over.

They then went from one extreme to the other, as the departure of both openers in quick succession saw Afghanistan lose four wickets for as many runs in 44 deliveries.

“We don’t have patience – we need to realise we have 50 overs to bat,” was the verdict of Afghanistan supporter Abdulhaq Niazi during one of two rain breaks which further halted their momentum.

Somerset County Gazette:

SUPPORTERS: Bakhtiyar Khan, Abdulhaq Niazi and Abdullah Shafaq

“If these two [Hashratullah Shahidi and Mohammad Nabi] stay in we can make 200+. If not, it will be more like 150.”

Niazi’s verdict was almost spot on. Shahidi did hang around, making a valiant 59, but Nabi did not and wickets fell at regular intervals as Afghanistan posted a below-par 172.

This did not dampen the spirits of the Afghanistan supporters who danced their way around the St James Street car park at the interval – a highlight of the day – and the noise and verve of the support only grew when Afghanistan made a dream start to the reply, dismissing the dangerous Martin Guptill with the first ball of the innings.

Aftab Alam, who was great value with bat and ball, went on to dismiss Colin Munro but any lingering hopes of an upset were extinguished by the class and experience of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.

Taylor fell just before the job was done but Williamson walked off having made an effortless unbeaten 79 to lead his side to a third straight victory at the start of the tournament. This may not have been their most stern test – the Black Caps barely had to break sweat – but New Zealand look a serious outfit who could well go deep in this competition.

The match may have been slightly one-sided but the occasion and the day was joyous for those who were part of it, from the hundreds of smiling ‘Cricketeers’ to the fans of all ages soaking up the atmosphere.

It has whetted the appetite for Taunton’s two matches to follow, the first of which should be a cracker on Wednesday as Pakistan take on Australia. It is rare for Taunton to be in a global spotlight – which is all the more reason to savour the upcoming fortnight.