12 March 2015
England v Afghanistan Preview, Match 38, Sydney
England will hope for a consolation win, even as free-spirited Afghanistan eyes a win over a Member nation
England's Chris Jordan: You want to get back on the horse quickly and put in a performance.
Both teams are equal on points, having one win each from their five games, and they will be hoping to add one more to the wins tally before bidding farewell to the tournament.
England’s troubles at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 began early, starting its campaign off with losses to Australia, by 111 runs, and New Zealand, by eight wickets. It pulled things back against Scotland, but despite a good batting effort against Sri Lanka, the bowling let it down as it fell to a nine-wicket loss. Against Bangladesh, the bowlers showed more self-belief to put in a strong performance, but the team fell short by 15 runs. Now, facing flak back home and with questions over the future of the players and staff, the team has a point to prove.
“We got blown away in the first two games, and I don't think we've really recovered from that,” said Paul Farbrace, the assistant coach, on the eve of the game. “There has been a lot said about, perhaps our nervousness, and the tension that we're playing with. I think it's hard to argue against that. I think the biggest disappointment over the last couple of days is thinking about what might have been.”
Chris Jordan, the all-rounder, however, was eager to move on. “First and foremost, because of the (Bangladesh) result the other night, you want to get back on the horse quite quickly and put in a performance," he said.
Adding to England’s worries are some injury concerns. Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes are both on the injured list. It seems almost certain that the replacements will be Ravi Bopara and James Tredwell.
One player who has stood out for England is Jos Buttler, who has batted 47 times for England, and has a strike-rate of 111.3. He could, one day, be as good as Brendon McCullum, and will threaten the Afghan bowlers. Alex Hales provides another promising option, not having got his chance in the competition till late, and is likely to open in the absence of Moeen.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s displays at this World Cup have been all about spirit and enthusiasm. It had a poor outing against Australia and Bangladesh, but with better fielding, it could have upset Sri Lanka. Its one-wicket win over Scotland will be a much-cherished one, but having come into the tournament confident of causing an upset, this is a last opportunity for Mohammad Nabi and his boys as well. Hoping to claim the scalp of a big team, it will play with nothing to lose.
Andy Moles, the Afghanistan coach, believes that if his free-spirited team play “the Afghan way”, it could pull off something special. “I think it's just the freedom of play. It's one thing I've tried to allow to happen and enhance ... they must play the Afghan way."
Samiullah Shenwari has received plaudits for his batting, and there isn’t a cricket fan out there who hasn’t been charmed by the pace and hostility of the Zadrans – Dawlat and Shapoor – and Hamid Hassan.
On a faster surface than that on view at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Afghan pace bowlers might have fancied their chances against a demoralised English line-up. But this pitch is likely to be brimful of runs.
England (likely): Ian Bell, Alex Hales, James Taylor, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ravi Bopara, Joss Buttler (wk), Chris Jordan, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, James Tredwell.
Afghanistan (likely): Javed Ahmedi, Usman Ghani, Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Afzar Zazai (wk), Najibullah Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran.
You can follow the build up to the game and the live scoring and match highlights for England v Afghanistan here in the ICC Match Centre.
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