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India vs Afghanistan | Rampant India Toughest Job Yet For Winless Afghanistan

Karthik Lakshmanan |June 22, 2019, 7:36 AM IST
India vs Afghanistan | Rampant India Toughest Job Yet For Winless Afghanistan

Southampton: It's becoming way too predictable, isn't it? The World Cup had a bit of spice in the initial stages, with West Indies and Bangladesh beating some more fancied sides, but the last week or so has become way too one-sided. The top four - New Zealand, Australia, England and India - seem to be in a different zone. Time is running out for the bottom ones to challenge them.

It's unlikely that Afghanistan will be that team. They're winless after five matches. Their batting has flopped, their bowling got a beating in their last game against England. Their star bowler Rashid Khan was taken apart for 110 runs in nine overs. There are reports of infighting within the team. The coach, Phil Simmons, has publicly warned of spilling the beans behind the sacking of former captain Asghar Afghan.

They now have to pick up the pieces and face another team that's as much a favourite as the hosts for the tournament - India - in Southampton on Saturday (June 22). Life doesn't get tougher than this.

India are on a roll. They haven't lost a game in four matches, with one being washed out. They've beaten some tough teams - South Africa, Australia and Pakistan. It feels like the rest of the league stage is mere formality for India. Unfortunately, the same can be said of the league stage itself unless some teams get onto a miraculous run.

India have their issues too, but they have enough in their tank to overcome each one of them. They lost Shikhar Dhawan to injury, but KL Rahul has stepped in. They won't have Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the next two-three matches, but have an able replacement in Mohammed Shami.

There are concerns about Vijay Shankar's availability for this game too, after he was injured on his foot by a Jasprit Bumrah yorker, but India can turn to Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant or Ravindra Jadeja.

Shami for Bhuvneshwar weakens the lower order batting, but India have not needed to use their batting depth so far in the tournament. It says a lot about their batting form, beginning with Rohit Sharma at the top. He has two centuries and one half-century in three games, while Virat Kohli has two half-centuries, playing the second fiddle role. Who comes in at No. 4 will depend on the status of Vijay's injury.

The bowling is in form too. Jasprit Bumrah and the two wrist spinners - Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal - have been among the wickets. Kuldeep's performance against Pakistan should give him confidence going into the second half of the tournament.

South Africa and Afghanistan will be hoping for their first win they face off in Cardiff (Photo Credit: Reuters)

Afghanistan have been playing around with their XI, with no apparent logic. They dropped Najibullah Zadran for a game before bringing him back. Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam and Hamid Hassan, the pacers, have also been rotated around. Hazratullah Zazai, who made some decent quick starts in the first four matches, was dropped against England. Captain Gulbadin Naib promoted himself to the top of the order.

Afghanistan's confidence would have been dented by Eoin Morgan's assault, particularly on Rashid. It's unlikely that any of the Indian batsmen will tee-off like Morgan or any other England batsman, but Kohli & co can accumulate runs in a steady manner. Afghanistan's bowlers will have to drastically lift themselves from the previous match to challenge India.

The batting will take confidence from the fact that they played out 50 overs against England. The team itself can take confidence from their last encounter against India - a tie in Dubai in the Asia Cup.

Yes, it was a second string Indian side. But if Afghanistan can pull off something similar, the World Cup will be slightly more interesting.

Weather and Pitch

Saturday should see the sun out, with little chances of rain. Conditions are expected to be good for cricket.

The Ageas Bowl pitch hasn't been a belter in this tournament. There has been help for pace and spin. India beat South Africa in a tricky 228-run chase in the first game here. England then chases down the 213-run target set by West Indies in the next completed game.

PROBABLE XI

India: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (capt), Vijay Shankar/Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.

Afghanistan: Rahmat Shah, Noor Ali Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Ali Khil(wk), Gulbadin Naib(c), Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman/Hamid Hassan, Dawlat Zadran

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Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3778 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 India 8099 261
5 Australia 5471 261
see more
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