Afghanistan vs Australia, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Match Preview: Steve Smith, David Warner begin quest for redemption as Australia take on Afghanistan in opener

Five-time champions Australia will start as overwhelming favourites in Bristol against an Afghanistan side only playing their second 50-over World Cup.

Agence France-Presse, Jun 01, 2019 13:00:56 IST

London: Steve Smith and David Warner will seek redemption on the biggest stage as they re-launch their one-day international careers for Australia against Afghanistan at the World Cup on Saturday.

File image of Steve Smith. Reuters

File image of Steve Smith. Reuters

The star batsmen were both banned for a year for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal but they have found form on their return to the international set-up.

Warner was the top runscorer in the recent Indian Premier League while Smith struck a hundred in a warm-up victory against England last weekend.

The defending champions have endured a tumultuous past year but the Aaron Finch-led side are peaking at the right time and are considered one of the favourites in the 50-over showpiece event.

After edging out hosts India 3-2 in a five-match ODI series in March, Australia welcomed back Smith and Warner with open arms.

But they are not expected to be given an easy ride by English fans, with former captain Smith being booed and called a "cheat" during the England warm-up game.

Former Australian paceman Brett Lee expects the pair to make big contributions but has warned they might need thick skin playing in front of the English crowds.

"I don't think they have got a point to prove, they will just be happy to be back playing for Australia. They have been welcomed back to the Australian cricket team with open arms, and I reckon they have a shot at winning," said Lee, who won the tournament with Australia in 2003.

"You have got the Barmy Army, you have got guys like Kevin Pietersen chirping at me already. They are going to cop some sledging, but you need thick skin," he added.

'United front'

Australia also boast a potent pace attack led by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, ably supported by Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson.

Spinners Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon lend variety to the bowling attack that combined to get the better of England and Sri Lanka in warm-up games.

The five-time champions will start as overwhelming favourites in Bristol against an Afghanistan side only playing their second 50-over World Cup.

Afghanistan's rise from associate-nation status to cricket's elite has been nothing short of a fairytale.

The minnows witnessed a captaincy change two months before the start of the World Cup, with little-known Gulbadin Naib named leader of the ODI side in place of Asghar Afghan, a move that did not go down well with some senior members of the team.

But the team have now settled to focus on their World Cup campaign.

"Gulbadin has said he'll make use of Asghar's experience (at the World Cup). They are a united front now. Changes do happen, like Sri Lanka did with their captaincy," said chief selector Dawlat Khan Ahmadzai.

Star spinner Rashid Khan carries the team's hopes on his shoulders with his ability to run through opposition batting — he tops the world Twenty20 bowling rankings and lies third in the 50-over standings.

Afghanistan, who beat Pakistan in a World Cup warm-up match, are setting their sights high.

"There was no Rashid or Mujeeb (ur Rahman) in 2015 so this time we are aiming for a semi-final berth. With the team composition we have, we can definitely surprise a few teams," said Ahmadzai. We have identified teams we can beat but obviously I can't tell you which teams," he added.

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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2019 14:23:59 IST


World Cup 2019 Points Table

Team p w l nr pts
Australia 5 4 1 0 8
New Zealand 4 3 0 1 7
India 4 3 0 1 7
England 4 3 1 0 6
Sri Lanka 5 1 2 2 4
West Indies 4 1 2 1 3
South Africa 5 1 3 1 3
Bangladesh 4 1 2 1 3
Pakistan 5 1 3 1 3
Afghanistan 4 0 4 0 0





Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
6 Sri Lanka 3462 94
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 5720 124
2 India 5990 122
3 New Zealand 4121 114
4 South Africa 4647 111
5 Australia 4805 109
6 Pakistan 4107 93
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
6 New Zealand 4056 254