Hampshire Bowl, Southampton
June 22, Saturday; 15:00 IST
Live on Star Sports, streaming on Hotstar
The main picture
You could point to the scale of South Africa’s underperformances at this World Cup being somewhat of a surprise, notwithstanding their being weakened by the shoulder injury ruling out Dale Steyn and a hamstring injury keeping Lungi Ngidi out for three matches. Otherwise, we haven’t had much in the way of surprise so far, with the four teams who were expected to finish in the semi-final positions sitting pretty at the halfway mark in the tournament.
Afghanistan were one of the teams who we reserved special focus for at the start of the tournament. They beat Pakistan in their first warm-up match and, at that point, appeared capable of registering a few wins and going toe to toe with the tournament favourites. Five matches in, Afghanistan, but for a brief spell against Sri Lanka in Cardiff (where they had a great chance to win after bowling out the opposition for 201), have performed poorly.
Perhaps the writing was on the wall when Asghar Afghan was removed as captain (across formats) less than two months before the World Cup and the reaction it elicited from seniors members Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, who expressed their disapproval on Twitter. The dispute over Mohammad Shahzad’s ejection from the squad after two matches because of a knee injury and Phil Simmons’ Twitter outburst on Wednesday in reaction to unsettling comments from former Afghanistan cricketer Dawlat Ahmadzai haven’t helped the team focus on playing good cricket.
Nabi and Rashid, two of the most integral members of the squad, haven’t played to potential so far, while senior batsman Afghan’s non-selection for the first three matches made little sense too. A combination of key players underperforming, the off-field distractions and contentious team selections have contributed to Afghanistan being rock-bottom and fighting to end a five-match losing streak with four matches left to play.
Going into the match against India, Afghanistan can take heart from their batting performance against England after Eoin Morgan’s 71-ball 148 took the tournament host to 397 batting first. Led by Hashmatullah Shahidi’s second fifty-plus score of the World Cup, they offered resistance against the pace and incision of Jofra Archer and mixed caution with aggression well enough to suggest they can at least be competitive against India. Their catching, ground fielding and bowling must, however, greatly improve if they are to deny India a win, as they did at the Asia Cup last year.
In terms of skill, experience and form, we can have no doubts as to who is the superior of the two teams. For India, the focus will be on being professional against Afghanistan in all departments and to build on their confident start to the World Cup. While they have been beset by Shikhar Dhawan being ruled out with a fracture of the first metacarpal in his left thumb, India now have clarity over one of the opening slots for the rest of the tournament (as things stand) with KL Rahul remaining Rohit Sharma’s partner.
India, in contrast to Afghanistan, are in high spirits and the challenge for Virat Kohli and co. is to maintain their level of performance from the wins over South Africa, Australia and Pakistan over a relatively easier second half of the league phase.
Weather and pitch report
India play Afghanistan at the venue (Hampshire Bowl) where they beat South Africa by six wickets in their opening match. The bowlers have found plenty of assistance when bowling first at this venue, with India restricting South Africa to 227 for nine in their match, while England—in the only other completed match here—bowled out the West Indies for 212 after electing to bowl first. The captain winning the toss might opt to bowl first again.
India trained under blue skies on Thursday and according to the weather forecast, Saturday will be sunny with a maximum temperature of 19-degree Celsius.
India vs Afghanistan Dream11 prediction, predicted playing 11
Dream11: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rahmat Shah, Hardik Pandya, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Rashid Khan (vice-captain), Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Gulbadin Naib
Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s reported hamstring stiffness means Mohammed Shami is likely to slot into the Indian playing 11, which is otherwise likely to remain the same from the match against Pakistan. Rishabh Pant might get the nod straight after replacing Dhawan in the squad if Vijay Shankar is deemed unfit after suffering a toe injury during India’s practice session on Wednesday.
India playing 11: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 KL Rahul, 4 MS Dhoni (wk), 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Vijay Shankar/Rishabh Pant/Dinesh Karthik, 8 Mohammed Shami, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Kuldeep Yadav
Afghanistan may well stick with the same XI from the match against England, though Hazratullah Zazai could come in for Noor Ali Zadran.
Afghanistan playing 11: 1 Gulbadin Naib (c), 2 Hazratullah Zazai/Noor Ali Zadran, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Asghar Afghan, 5 Hashmatullah Shahidi, 6 Ikram Alikhil (wk), 7 Najibullah Zadran, 8 Mohammad Nabi, 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Dawlat Zadran, 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman
India, given their all-round ability, are capable of obliterating most teams, but they will be wary of Afghanistan, who denied them a win in the Asia Cup last year. For Naib and co., this match is another opportunity to test themselves against another of the big boys of world cricket.