ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP, 2019
South Africa and Afghanistan may be miles apart in terms of ODI accomplishments but find themselves strangely squeezed next to each other at the bottom of the points table. © Getty
Cardiff is a good place for South Africa to be at right now. It is here that they won their last cricket match, 20 days ago. The Welsh capital has grown even quieter since, if that’s even possible, The disgruntled murmurs that the World Cup has generated thanks to all the washed-out games hasn’t made its way to Cardiff even if the rains themselves have. Post the England-Bangladesh match here last week, even those in the know of this grand tournament speak of it in the past tense. Billboards of a Manchester United vs AC Milan pre-season friendly scheduled at the Millenium Stadium that have sprung up in different parts of the city centre now generate the most buzz.
Between the Spice Girls re-union concert two weeks ago and the forthcoming football game, the Welsh capital has moved on quickly past the Cricket World Cup. There’s a lesson in there for South Africa, who still pin hopes on mounting a brave surge from here on after a disastrous first week. In the blue corner, Gulbadin Naib is singing similar tunes with his team falling well short in the three games thus far, despite the brief flutters of chutzpah – Naib himself vs Australia, Mohammad Nabi versus Sri Lanka and Hazratullah Zazai against New Zealand.
These two sides may be miles apart in terms of ODI accomplishments but find themselves strangely squeezed next to each other at the bottom of the points table. Afghan expectations have been dampened by green tops and the English weather, while South Africa’s propensity for internal chaos has been placed to one side by a weirdly restorative point against West Indies in Southampton.
Logic and experience may suggest that Faf du Plessis & Co. will have the measure of Afghanistan in the sides’ first-ever ODI bout, but South Africa have shown that the context of a World Cup still makes an enormous difference to clashes otherwise dubbed “just another game”. South Africa will be spooked by the very thought of defeat, which will almost confirm their exit. They arrived at the World Cup as one of the outside contenders, but three matches on, have quickly become pretenders, and are finding that to be an equally taxing tag to carry for the remainder of the tournament.
When: South Africa vs Afghanistan, June 15, 13:30 Local, 18:00 IST
Where: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
What to expect: Heavy rains lashed Cardiff at noon on the eve of the game. But if the forecasts are to be believed, the match itself might just avoid falling victim on account of it being a day-night fixture. The rains, though, have meant that the pitch has spent all the time under the cover. Du Plessis reckoned that it would seam through the game and could potentially negate the Rashid Khan effect once more this World Cup.
South Africa:Lungi Ngidi bowled full tilt ahead of the eventually abandoned West Indies game in Southampton, but du Plessis confirmed that they were still uncertain of re-integrating the speedster back into the XI because of the risk of injury recurrence and the four other must-win games to follow. Given the conditions on offer, Beuran Hendricks, who troubled many batsmen in the nets two days out from the game, will get another game. The South African captain preached consistency in selection at his press conference and is likely to give his under-fire batting line-up another chance to get it right.
Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi/Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir
Afghanistan:Rashid failed two concussion tests in the game against New Zealand but bowled without any discomfort in the indoor nets two days before the game. Afghanistan are unlikely to change the composition of their playing XI.
Probable XI: Hazratullah Zazai, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan
Did you know?
– This will be the first ODI between South Africa and Afghanistan. The two sides have twice met in World T20 encounters, with South Africa emerging victorious on both occasions
– Hashim Amla is 65 runs from 8000 ODI runs. If he gets there in this innings, he will be the joint-fastest to landmark, tying with Virat Kohli (175 innings)
– South Africa have lost most wickets in the first PowerPlay – 7 – while Afghanistan have lost the most in the middle-overs (11-40) – 24
What they said:
“We have to try and make sure that we put all of our focus and energy into the now and what’s coming next. I truly believe if we carry the ghosts of last week, then it’s going to be tough to get out of the hole.” – Faf du Plessis makes no bones about what he wants from his team heading into the final-five games of the team’s league stages.
“They get hit for a boundary and they think they need to change up or knock the stumps over instead of saying I’ll go back to my hard Test lengths again” – Bowling coach Charl Langeveldtsees a massive learning curve for Afghanistan’s fast bowlers.