We’re into the last round of the Cricket World Cup group stage matches and there’s still plenty to play for on Friday morning (08:30). The Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedebad is the venue for the match between South Africa and Afghanistan and we’ve done our usual preview and tips for your attention.
Afghanistan (11/4) must be absolutely kicking themselves ahead of this match up with South Africa (1/4).
None more so than Mujeeb Ur-Rahman, who dropped an absolute sitter off Glenn Maxwell on 33, who then subsequently went on to hit the greatest ODI innings of all time. Maxwell’s 201* off 128 balls with virtually no working legs dragged Australia back from the brink at 91/7 and cost Afghanistan a vital two points.
However, Afghanistan are not mathematically dead yet and will likely need a massive win here to steal fourth spot from New Zealand and Pakistan on net run rate.
As I write this, the Black Caps look to be cruising to a comfortable win against Sri Lanka, which would take them to ten points. Pakistan face England in their final game, where a win would also take them to 10 points. So the Afghans only chance is to demolish the Proteas.
That in itself will be a huge task, as South Africa have been hugely impressive in this tournament, bar the debacle against Netherlands. Their style of hard hitting has accumulated some massive totals and it’s hard to see Afghanistan beat them here, never mind by a heavy margin.
South Africa may be tempted to rotate the pack a touch here, given they already know their semi-final opponents.
South Africa (from): Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams.
Afghanistan will likely be unchanged from the Australia match as despite the loss, their performance was tremendous for the vast majority of the game.
Afghanistan (from): Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, 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.
Afghanistan to win – 11/4
Any cricket fan with a beating heart and a romantic nature about the game cannot fail to have been impressed and heartened by the performances of Afghanistan in this tournament.
They have beaten England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands and were oh-so-close to beating Australia, before one-legged Maxwell worked his magic.
Their batting has become more solid as the tournament progressed and their bowling is varied and innovative. Yes their fielding needs work but this team is young and could become one of the future powerhouses of cricket.
With South Africa qualified and eyeing up Australia in the semi-finals, they can be forgiven for not going full tilt at this match and I think Afghanistan could pull off another shock. Whether they can do enough to nick fourth spot is another thing altogether.
Azmatullah Omarzai top AFG wicket taker – 7/1
I have been hugely impressed with the Afghan bowling attack and they seem to have found another young gem in Azmatullah Omazai.
The 23-year-old had David Warner on absolute strings and nipped one back into his pads before smashing into his stumps.
He followed that with a golden duck dismissal of Josh Inglis and almost removed Glenn Maxwell with his attempted hat-trick delivery.
Azmat can move the ball at will in both directions and is providing, with Naveen-ul-Haq, some serious back-up for their four pronged spin attack.
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