As the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 intensifies, Australia faces a resurgent Afghanistan, challenging the narrative of past meetings. With the Aussies looking to extend their five-match winning streak and Afghanistan seeking a seminal semi-final berth, this 39th match at Mumbai’s high-scoring Wankhede Stadium is set to be a strategic showdown, where history meets the hunger for new cricketing milestones.
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Match Preview: Afghanistan vs Australia, ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 39th Match
ICC World Cup • 7 Nov, 2023 • 3,193 Views • ⭐ 3.0
Written by Anand Swami
At Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, the pitch is advantageous for pace bowlers initially, particularly for those who can swing the ball. As the match progresses, spinners too find their rhythm. Batters who exhibit patience and good timing can score heavily. These dynamics suggest that the team winning the toss may prefer to bowl first to make the most of the favourable conditions early in the game.
Form Guide - Afghanistan
Afghanistan approaches the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 with an impressive recent form of WWWLW. They have demonstrated their rising cricketing prowess by defeating strong teams like England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Netherlands, showing that they are a force to be reckoned with. The spin quartet of Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, and Noor Ahmad has been particularly effective, ready to exploit Australia's known vulnerability against spin. This was nearly demonstrated in the 2022 T20 World Cup, where despite a different format, the pace duo of Naveen-ul-Haq and Fazalhaq Farooqi caused significant problems for Australia.
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However, the upcoming match will be played at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, a venue with high-scoring games and historically less influence from spin, which might challenge Afghanistan's strategy. Nonetheless, the team is motivated by more than just cricketing success; political decisions, such as Cricket Australia's cancellation of a Test and ODI series, have added an extra layer of determination for Afghanistan to make a statement about their standing in international cricket.
Form Guide - Australia
Australia heads into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 clash with Afghanistan boasting an enviable form of WWWWW. Their record against Afghanistan in World Cups has been stellar, with overwhelming victories in their past encounters. In the 2015 World Cup, held in Perth, they set a towering score of 417 for 6, thanks to David Warner's explosive innings of 178, leading them to a 275-run win. They continued their dominance in the 2019 World Cup in Bristol, where they comfortably beat Afghanistan by seven wickets, having 91 balls to spare, after bowling them out for 207 — a match where Warner again shined brightly, scoring an unbeaten 89.
Despite these historical achievements, the Australians are aware of the evolving threat posed by Afghanistan, especially given their opponent's recent successes and formidable spin attack. With the Wankhede Stadium's pitch likely to favour their batting strengths and considering the reduced impact of spin at the venue, Australia will be looking to capitalize while also being cautious of Afghanistan's desire to prove their standing in global cricket.
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For Afghanistan, Rashid Khan has had a subdued World Cup campaign by his standards, with only one three-wicket haul, which came against England. Although he has accumulated seven wickets, his average of 43.85 and a strike rate of 57 are uncharacteristic for a bowler of his calibre, indicating that he has struggled to deliver decisive blows. Nonetheless, Rashid continues to apply pressure, maintaining an economical rate of 4.61 runs per over. Despite his intimate familiarity with the Australian batsmen through the Big Bash League, which might reduce his element of surprise, Rashid’s expertise cannot be entirely negated.
His proficiency with both the 'wrong'un' and leg break could still play a crucial role, akin to England's Adil Rashid, who, despite being well-known to the Australians, managed to have a significant impact with figures of 2 for 38 from 10 overs in their last encounter, including key wickets of Steven Smith and Josh Inglis. Smith's repeated dismissal to spin in the tournament highlights a potential opportunity for Rashid to exploit.
Mitchell Marsh has revealed some of Australia's batting balance issues, particularly when starting against spin, as seen in his latest innings against New Zealand where he appeared out of his comfort zone beginning in the 20th over. This year, Marsh has typically opened the batting in 11 out of his 15 matches, batting at number three in the other four. His struggles are highlighted by his performance in Bloemfontein where he was dismissed on the first ball to spin following a century opening stand from Warner and Head. Against England, the absence of early aggression due to the quick losses of Head and Warner exposed a gap in Australia's batting strategy, which they aim to exploit with power hitters in the powerplay.
Marsh's record at number three over the past three years has not been impressive, averaging only 17.60 with a strike rate of 73.06 and a top score of 36, which pales in comparison to his exceptional record as an opener. While Australia's batting appears more formidable with Marsh in the lineup, his adaptability at number three is vital for the team's aspirations, especially as they approach the crucial stages of the World Cup.
Afghanistan's team strategy has remained relatively stable, with strategic changes to their bowling attack being made in response to different playing conditions. With the upcoming match in Mumbai, where conditions have favoured pace over spin, the choice between Naveen-ul-Haq and Noor Ahmad comes into focus. Naveen's impressive figures of 3 for 21 against Australia in the last T20 World Cup bolster his case for selection. However, the traditionally spin-weak Australian batting lineup could tempt Afghanistan to field a spin-heavy attack, including all four of their key spinners.
For Australia, the return of Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell to the playing eleven seems imminent. Marsh, who has been fine-tuning his bowling with measured run-ups on the eve of the match, along with his batting practice, is a likely inclusion. Maxwell has also been seen investing significant time at the nets against local spinners, indicating his preparation for a spin assault. Cameron Green has indicated that he will be stepping down for one of the returning players.
The biggest selection dilemma for Australia is deciding who the second player to be dropped will be. Marnus Labuschagne, who scored the most runs against England with a well-crafted 71 and demonstrated excellent skills against all types of spin, is a possible candidate to be left out. This is considered alongside Steven Smith's recent struggles with off-spin and leg-spin, as well as his battle with vertigo. Additionally, Marcus Stoinis' fitness is under scrutiny, as he has been managed carefully due to past injuries, and the quick recovery time between matches could affect the selection of the fast bowlers who have had only a short rest period.
Pitch and Weather Report
The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai has emerged as a high-scoring venue this World Cup, with substantial first innings totals such as 399, 382, and 357. The pitch is likely to favour batsmen again, while the weather for the match day is expected to be extremely hot, with temperatures reaching up to 37 degrees Celsius, and no rain forecasted. With clear skies, around 50% humidity, and a gentle breeze of 14 kmph, players may face challenging conditions, particularly with the heat and air quality.
Afghanistan (Probable): Hashmatullah Shahidi (capt), Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Noor Ahmad/Naveen-ul-Haq, Rahmat Shah, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Ibrahim Zadran, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Azmatullah Omarzai.
Australia (Probable): Marcus Stoinis, Marnus Labuschagne/Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Pat Cummins (capt), Adam Zampa, David Warner, Josh Inglis (wk), Mitchell Marsh, Josh Hazlewood.
The ICC World Cup 2023 encounter between Australia and Afghanistan will be broadcast on Star Sports Network and Disney+ Hotstar in India. Fans in Australia can tune into Fox Sport and Kayo, while in Afghanistan, Ariana TV will provide coverage. The match is set to start at 2 PM Local Time (IST), with the crucial toss occurring at 1:30 PM Local Time (IST).
Approaching the endgame of the World Cup, Afghanistan eyes a historic move while Australia aims to solidify their legacy. This critical clash goes beyond just cricket, reflecting Afghanistan's drive to establish their global standing amidst political tensions, and Australia's tactical acumen tested against the spin threat. As strategies unfold, this match promises to add a riveting chapter to the World Cup chronicles, capturing the spirit of cricket at its peak.
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