The Australian team has had an incredible year thus far. After defeating India and Pakistan in their home conditions, the Aaron Finch-captained unit won their warm-up matches of this year’s World Cup in England and Wales. First, they brushed aside hosts England after Steve Smith amassed a magnificent century. The Aussies carried forward their momentum and defeated a hapless Sri Lanka as well.
Finch and Co is now set to play their first match of the league stage against Afghanistan on Saturday at the County Ground in Bristol and stand as the favourites to win the game. The Afghans, on the other hand, rolled over Pakistan by three wickets in their first practice match. However, the team, led by Gulbadin Naib, was demolished by England as they lost by nine wickets at the Kennington Oval in London. Going into the first World Cup game, the likes of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Asfghar Afghan will look to utilise their experience against mighty Australian and open their points tally.
The Afghans are likely to bring back Mohammad Shahzad, who missed the second warm-up due to a hamstring injury, in place of Noor Ali Zadran. The likes of Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi have been consistent and their team would depend on them. The onus will be on Dawlat and Hamid to give Afghanistan the early breakthroughs. Their spin trio of Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb will also be in focus.
For Australia, it’s still not clear who should be the openers. Khawaja did well against Lanka and it’s tough to demote David Warner as well. If the duo opens then, Finch has to drop down the middle order. There’s uncertainty over Warner’s fitness as well. Steve Smith should bat at three given the awe-inspiring form he is in. Stoinis and Maxwell can inject momentum into the innings. Starc, Behrendorff, and Pat Cummins will form the pace attack with Zampa as the lone spinner.
Afghanistan (Probable XI): Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib (C), Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Australia (Probable XI): David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Aaron Finch (C), Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
Who will win?
Australia can certainly fancy their chances for an easy win against Afghanistan. They have been able to prepare for the tournament well, and will look to execute in the first match. Afghanistan, on the other hand, are termed as the dark horse of the tournament, but against Australia, it is highly unlikely that they will make an upset.
Weather and pitch
Conditions will be overcast but it will make no difference to the nature of the pitch, which will be flat. Bowlers are expected to suffer once again.
Going by the statistics, the two teams have played in World Cup only once with Afghanistan making the entrance in 2015. Going by that, Australia has 100 per cent record against Afghanistan.
Stadium and timings
The match will be played at County Ground in Bristol and the match will begin at 6:00 PM IST.