After noteworthy wins in both their warm-up matches, Australia, the defending champions, begin as hot favourites against Afghanistan in the fourth match of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 in Bristol on Saturday.
County Ground, Bristol
2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Match 4
Saturday, 1 June; 1.30pm local, 12.30pm GMT
The Aussies have lived up to their reputation, peaking just at the right time. Not many would've given them a chance until a few months ago, but emphatic series wins in India and UAE, and the return of their stalwarts, Steve Smith and David Warner, makes them one of the most dangerous sides in the tournament.
While Aaron Finch hasn't been able to carry his form in the warm-ups, Usman Khawaja's consistency adds up to a formidable top order. Their bowling unit is as strong as any in this World Cup, with skills and experience alike in both pace and spin departments. A collective, well-rounded performance in both the warm-ups, including a 12-run win against hosts and tournament favourites England, present enough challenge for the skipper and the staff to pick the final eleven.
On the other hand, a heavy defeat to England in their last warm-up, by no means, would dismay the ever-confident Afghanistan side. They might be the least experienced team in terms of ICC tournament appearances, but are capable of unsettling any opposition with a skilled set of match-winners in their ranks.
While their win against Pakistan gave a further evidence of their capabilities as a unit, a batting collapse against hosts England would've acted as an eye-opener. Skipper Gulbadin Naib will hope for a good start from his top-order batsmen against a strong Australian bowling unit. Considering the opposition, the enigmatic spin trio of Rashid, Nabi and Mujeeb might well have a strong influence in the game's outcome.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): Currently ranked third in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Rankings for bowlers, the 20-year old will look to bring his experience of playing against most of the Australian batsmen in the Big Bash League, into play in batting friendly conditions in Bristol.
Steve Smith (Australia): Steve Smith's century against the hosts, England, in their first warm-up game gave us a fair glimpse of his skills and a staggering fortitude. His abilities to counter spin with his sublime wrists, would come in handy against the quality of Rashid and Nabi in the middle overs.
Saturday is expected to be a fine, dry and warm day, with lengthy spells of sunshine. West Indies amassed 421 against New Zealand here in their final warm-up game on Tuesday and another run-fest can be expected with short boundaries at the County Ground. Dry conditions might bring spinners into play as it did in Afghanistan's win against Pakistan last week.
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon
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