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Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan | Grassy Cardiff Track Awaits Sides Desperate for Win

Match 7 of the ICC World Cup will pit the two bottom-ranked ODI teams in the world — Sri Lanka (Rank: 9) and Afghanistan (Rank: 10) — with both sides starting off their campaigns with losses against New Zealand and Australia respectively.

Cricketnext Staff |June 4, 2019, 8:39 AM IST
Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan | Grassy Cardiff Track Awaits Sides Desperate for Win

Match 7 of the ICC World Cup will pit the two bottom-ranked ODI teams in the world — Sri Lanka (Rank: 9) and Afghanistan (Rank: 10) — with both sides starting off their campaigns with losses against New Zealand and Australia respectively. Tuesday’s encounter at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff will be crucial for both sides as they try to find some momentum for tougher challenges ahead in the ICC World Cup 2019.

Out of the two, Afghanistan were the more impressive although Sri Lanka have won a World Cup back in 1996. The newest Test-playing nation, who only got this status last year, had slipped to 77/5 in their first game against Australia but battled hard to post 207 on the board before succumbing to a seven-wicket defeat.

The Lankans, on the other hand, were rolled over by the Kiwis for 136 at Cardiff and slumped to a 10-wicket defeat. Barring skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, who carried his bat through the innings for an unbeaten fifty, no one showed any fight in the Lankan innings.

On a seaming track, SL’s susceptibility to pace and movement was exposed by Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson. A similar pitch is also expected for Tuesday’s game with rainy and overcast conditions around in Wales.

Lanka will believe that with their slightly superior pace attack led by veteran Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep, they would have a definite edge over the Afghans.

Skipper Gulbadin Naib’s side mostly rely on their spin attack featuring leg-spinner Rashid Khan, off-spinner Mohammed Nabi and mystery spinner Mujeeb-ur-Rahman. If the track is as green as it was against New Zealand, Afghan spinners will find it really tough to turn the ball.

When it comes to batting, Afghanistan possess the superior fire power right from the top with openers Mohammad Shahzad and young Hazaratullah Zazai not shy to take on any bowling attack.

Najibullah Zadran has been in fine form in the middle order and the likes of Nabi and Rashid are dangerous coming down the order.

Cardiff is alien conditions for both these sides and team that will be able to modify their game sufficiently will come out on top in this encounter.

Last Five ODIs

Sri Lanka: LLNRWL

After getting drubbed in the ODI series against South Africa, Lanka played a couple of games against Scotland last month — winning one with the other game getting rained out. The started the World Cup with a 10-wicket loss against New Zealand on Saturday.

Afghanistan: NRWLWL

The Afghans also won one out of their two games against Scotland and shared the ODI series against Ireland 1-1. In the first game against Australia, they lost by seven wickets at Bristol.

Players to watch out for

Sri Lanka - Lasith Malinga: The former ODI captain will have a point to prove after a lackluster outing against New Zealand. He might be 35 years of age but Malinga still possesses plenty of skill and experience to be a dangerous customer in English conditions. He will need to lead the pace attack on the helpful Cardiff track.

Afghanistan - Najibullah Zadran: The southpaw packs a punch in the Afghanistan middle-order. The 26-year-old has a strike-rate of over 90 in ODIs and has been in fine form over the last few months. Najibullah scored his maiden ODI ton against Ireland in Dehradun in February this year.

Areas of concern

Sri Lanka: Their top-order is the biggest worry after their dismal showing against New Zealand. Barring skipper Karunaratne and Kusal Perera, no one reached double figures. The Lankan batsmen need to urgently find their groove to turn the side’s form around.

Afghanistan: A lot of their batsmen — Najibullah, Rahmat Shah, Naib and Rashid — got off to good starts but failed to carry on. Najibullah and skipper Naib succumbed to short deliveries and teams might target this weakness in games to come if the Afghans don’t handle the bouncers well.

Squads

Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Avishka Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Mendis (wk), Kusal Perera (wk), Thisara Perera, Nuwan Pradeep, Dhananjaya de Silva, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay.

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.

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1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
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3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
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