Get those alarms set for Sunday morning (09:30) as the Cricket World Cup continues for Jos Buttler & Co, with England taking on Afghanistan in Delhi. We’ve previewed this one and given you our best bets.
England (1/11) got the show back on the road against Bangladesh, to restore confidence somewhat after a lacklustre start against New Zealand.
Now they face, what looks on paper an even easier fixture, against an Afghanistan (6/1) that has really struggled to show their quality at this tournament so far.
Hashmatullah Shahidi’s men sit rock bottom of the table, after two comprehensive losses to Bangladesh and India and need to start working those miracles again.
As for England the top order looked in rude health in Dharamshala, with Dawid Malan in particular shining, as tipped up in our Cricket World Cup Preview article.
What will be more concerning for Buttler and head coach Matthew Mott, will have been the collapse of the middle to lower order, falling from 296/2 to 364/9 in just over 10 overs.
The Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi was the scene for South Africa’s record World Cup score earlier in the tournament and has produced fantastic batting wickets thus far, so this should be another chance to accumulate big runs.
England may be tempted to shuffle the pack here, given the strength of the opposition and the non-stop nature of the group stage format. That could mean first starts in the competition for Gus Atkinson in a straight swap for Mark Wood, as well as a chance for David Willey to finally shine on the World Cup stage, after his disappointing late omission from the squad in 2019.
Ben Stokes is still struggling with his hip and will surely be kept for more significant games later on in the tournament.
England (probable): Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Harry Brook, Jos Buttler (c & wk), Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes.
For Afghanistan, meanwhile, surely they have to rotate the squad, after back-to-back demoralising losses.
Afghanistan (from): Afghanistan: Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Rahmat Shah, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Ikram Alikhil, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Noor Ahmad, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Abdul Rahman, Naveen ul Haq.
David Willey top ENG wicket taker – 9/2
As mentioned earlier, it’s been a heart-breaking wait for David Willey, to ply his trade on the biggest of stages.
A prodigiously talented swing bowler with the shiny new Kookaburra, Willey is able to swing the ball on any wicket in the world and is always a threat at the top of the order.
Having been named in the provisional squad for the 2019 World Cup (which of course England went on to win), Willey was unceremoniously dropped for the pace of Jofra Archer.
Now, with Archer injured and other bowlers failing to shine, it’s the 33-year-old’s chance to prove his worth and I think he will grab it with both mitts.
Rashid Khan top AFG wicket taker – 3/1
It’s been a miserable start to the campaign for Afghanistan but one tiny little bright spot was the bowling of Rashid Khan in the loss to India.
The mystery leg-spinner picked up the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan and gave a hint of what was to come later in this tournament.
Khan has long been established as one of the finest T20 bowlers in the world but given the lack of 50-over games for Afghanistan, he has been unable to hone his craft in the longer format.
I like his chances of picking up a few wickets in the middle order to an England side that have struggled against mystery spin in the past.
With the likes of Brook and Livingstone teeing-off, there will be catches in the offing from the 25-year-old’s bowling.