Saturday’s (June 15) second fixture will feature the early ‘wooden spooners’ of this ICC World Cup, two teams who are yet to win a game in the tournament – South Africa and Afghanistan. If the weather allows for the game to finish, Cardiff will finally see one of these two teams get off the mark with their first win. Out of the two, South Africa must be the ones more disappointed with their performances so far after three losses in their first four matches. The Faf du Plessis-led side look far from the third ranked ODI team that they are in this World Cup.
Losses to England, Bangladesh and India have left them exposed and injuries to key bowlers like Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi have not helped their cause so far. The game against Afghanistan, the lowest ranked ODI team in this World Cup, gives the best chance to the Proteas to begin their belated comeback bid in the tournament. The likes of Hashim Amla, Du Plessis and Quinton de Kock will need to do the bulk of the scoring against Afghanistan spin threat of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi.
The Afghanistan batting has been unreliable like the South Africans so far. Opener Hazratullah Zazai can be a dangerous customer when he gets going but has found it hard to explode against quality bowling attacks. Middle-order batsman Najibullar Zadran has been their most consistent performer with the willow but against South Africa, they will need the likes of Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi and skipper Gulbadin Naib to chip in.
South Africa’s last ODI win came in March during an ODI series against Sri Lanka back home in South Africa. Since arriving at this World Cup, they have lost to England, Bangladesh and India
while they looked in early trouble against West Indies in the rained-out last
fixture. Like their opponents, Afghanistan have also lost three games in the
World Cup so far against Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Their last ODI win was against Ireland in the World Cup preparation series.
South Africa paceman Lungi Ngidi appears to have recovered from a hamstring injury and should be able to take the field against Afghanistan after missing the last two games. Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib had said after the last game that Rashid Khan should be full fit for the game in Cardiff. Naib will have a full squad to select his final XI.
Players to watch out for: Faf du Plessis: The skipper will need to lift the side’s sagging spirits in the field and lead the way with the bat in the middle-order. Du Plessis is one of the best players of spin in the side and will need to handle the twin-threat of Rashid and Nabi to help out his team.
Rashid Khan: He is one of the best leg-spinners in the world in the shorter formats of the game. A knock on the helmet against New Zealand meant Afghanistan missed the services of Rashid in the field but the youngster should be recovered sufficiently to take full part in the game against South Africa.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, JP Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Beuran Hendricks, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah (wk), Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ikram Ali Khil.