Two lowest ranked ODI teams in the World Cup will lock horns today as Number 9 Sri Lanka take on Number 10 Afghanistan. After a disappointing start, both will be looking to get their first points on the board in this encounter.
Sri Lankan ODI side is in the middle of a terrible run of a form right now, having won just 2 games since September last year, and they will be desperate for a win here to get some confidence back. Few years back, this fixture would have been taken as straight forward 2 points by Sri Lanka but the recent form of both teams shows that we may be in for a very evenly matched contest. Last time these 2 sides met; Afghanistan handed Sri Lanka a heavy 91 runs defeat to knock them out of the Asia Cup.
Sri Lanka started the World Cup in the worst possible way for them, a comprehensive 10 wickets defeat. Sri Lankan batting was thoroughly exposed by the Kiwi quicks as Henry and Ferguson ran through their batting line-up with only skipper Karunaratne digging in to produce a fighting half century. The batsmen will have to do a lot better against Afghanistan to give themselves any chance in the bowling friendly conditions expected during this game.
If the pitch is anywhere close to the green colour we saw during Sri Lanka-New Zealand game at the same venue, expect an additional seamer Nuwan Pradeep to come in to the XI at the expense of Jeevan Mendis or Isuru Udana.
Afghanistan showed a lot of impatience against Australia in their opening match with most of their batsmen playing as if they were playing a T20 match. It could be the nerves of playing in a big tournament or maybe they just wanted to get as many as they could before they get a ball with their number on it. In seaming and swinging conditions in Cardiff, they will have to show a little more restraint to be successful and put up a fighting total, though you won’t expect Shehzad to show any restraint at all.
Their bowling may see some changes with Mujeeb’s poor form from IPL continuing in the first game. A seamer may get drafted in his place for this venue. Their bowling will stay heavily reliant on Rashid Khan though who had a rare off game against Australia.
Kusal Perera– Only time period during which Sri Lanka was in the contest against New Zealand was when Kusal Perera was batting. The diminutive left hander scored a quickfire 29 with some attractive boundaries before skying a catch off Henry. He was the star when Sri lanka pulled off the greatest Test chase against South Africa earlier this year, and now Sri Lanka will be hoping he can bring some of that form to England.
Rashid Khan– For Afghanistan, the star man remains Rashid Khan. He had a decent outing with the bat against Australia where his quick cameo pushed the total above 200 but he had an off day with the ball. Bowling slightly shorter than what he usually does, Rashid leaked runs square off the wicket and was unable to build any pressure. Afghanistan will be hoping it was just an off day for their star bowler and he will be back to doing what he does best against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan in ODIs
Overall: Matches 3, Sri Lanka Won 2, Afghanistan Won 1
World Cup: Matches 1, Sri Lanka Won 1, Afghanistan Won 0
Recent Form (most recent first): Sri Lanka LWLLL | Afghanistan LWLWL
ICC Rankings: Sri Lanka (9), Afghanistan (10)