Redemption is something you have to fight for in a very personal, down-dirty way. Both David Warner and Steve Smith are finding this as they return to the fold, and put on the Baggy Green for the first time since Sandpaper-gate threatened to end their careers.
Warner is coming off an unbelievable batting performance at the IPL for Hyderabad, where he ended the tournament as it’s top scorer. Smith was that influential at Rajasthan, he ended up taking over the captaincy from Ajinka Rahane. Afghanistan on the other hand, are the team literally built out of the ashes of it’s war-torn past. Where the country once looked to the Taliban for leadership, now it looks to Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi as it’s heros.
Australia enter this tournament as the holders, and will feel, not unreasonably, that they have a good chance of retaining it. The spine of the team is strong with Warner, Smith, Maxwell and Starc as four of the world’s best players. Left-hander David Warner is possibly the most competent batsman in the world against spin, and he’ll relish this challenge.
He does carry the expectations of his country on his shoulders and I certainly think he’s up to the task for this game. Bigger tests will come against India and England. Afghanistan have shown that they struggle against really quick bowling, and Starc and Cummins will offer them a stark reminder, they are playing with the big boys now.
The biggest worry I’d have about this Afghanistan team will be their ability to bat for 50 overs. These players have grown up on the T20 game which is a totally different animal to the 50-over format. At the last World Cup in 2015, they never once got to bat for the full 50 overs.
If Australia get to bat first, I feel they could rack up a really big score. Bristol’s county ground has short boundaries, as we saw in the warm ups when the West Indies made over 400. The main threat for Afghanistan comes from Rashid Khan, who is the No.1 ranked bowler in T20 Cricket.
This globetrotting superstar is known the world over for being able to bamboozle even the best batsman. However, it’s not having enough runs on the board that could be their failing at this World Cup.
David Warner: Top Australia Runscorer @ 23/10
R Khan/H Zazai: Top Afghanistan batsman/bowler double @ 13/2
* All odds correct at time of posting.