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Cricket World Cup 2023 | Australia up against resurgent Afghanistan, eyes last-four spot

By Sampad Nov6,2023
Tapping his way to success: Young Noor Ahmad has performed creditably whenever he got to play.

Tapping his way to success: Young Noor Ahmad has performed creditably whenever he got to play.
| Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

An intense battle awaits when Australia and Afghanistan meet in a must-win World Cup fixture at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday. A win from its remaining two fixtures will seal a semifinal berth for Australia, while Afghanistan, too, stands a chance if it wins the next two games and betters its net run rate.

In their previous three ODI outings — including two in World Cups — Afghanistan lost on every occasion. But this time around, three consecutive wins have breathed life into its campaign and it would be desperate keep the momentum going. But it won’t be an easy affair.

After two early losses, Australia regrouped and found form to win five matches on the trot. Though there are concerns over Steve Smith’s availability after he reported symptoms of vertigo, the five-time champion will be glad to have Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell back.

The previous three fixtures at the iconic venue have witnessed 350-plus totals by teams batting first and Australia will count on its seasoned opener David Warner to fire. Warner has amassed 428 runs in seven matches, with two centuries and a fifty, and the onus will be on him to guide the team to a big total. Travis Head, with 120 runs in two innings, has shown glimpses of his brilliance and even if Smith is unavailable, Australia has enough depth.

In Delhi and Chennai, Afghanistan spun out Pakistan and England, making the most of the spin-friendly conditions. But on a flat deck in Mumbai, spinners have hardly had an impact in the last few games. So, Afghanistan needs to decide whether it plays an extra spinner in Noor Ahmad — along with regulars Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman — or brings in pacer Naveen-ul Haq.

The top-three Afghan batters — Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Rahmat Shah and Ibrahim Zadran — have amassed 730 runs in seven outings. Captain Shahidi tops the chart for the side with 282. However, against a quality attack led by skipper Cummins, the batters will be put to test.

By Sampad

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