Cricket World Cup 2019: Rishabh Pant in the spotlight as India prepare to take on Afghanistan

Ashish Peter 21/06/2019
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All eyes on whether Pant (l) is selected.

Tournament minnows Afghanistan have their task cut out as they get ready to take on an in-form India in a 2019 ICC World Cup clash at Southampton on Saturday.

The two teams are at completely opposite ends of the table coming into the clash with India firing while Afghanistan have struggled desperately in all departments.

Virat Kohli and his men remain unbeaten four games into their campaign with three wins and one no-result. Afghanistan, on the other hand, remain glued to the bottom of the table after suffering five defeats in as many games.

PANT IN THE SPOTLIGHT AS INDIA DEAL WITH INJURIES

While India do come into the clash on the back of a crushing win against Pakistan, all in not well on the injury front. Opener Shikhar Dhawan’s fractured thumb has now ruled him out of the tournament with Rishabh Pant being drafted in as a replacement.

Many eyebrows were raised over the young wicketkeeper’s non-selection in the original World Cup squad but fate has provided him a backdoor entry into the prestigious tournament. The question for India now is whether to select the youngster into the playing XI straight away with his explosive power hitting a tempting option.

It was Vijay Shankar who took the No4 spot in the Pakistan clash in the absence of Dhawan and the all-rounder had an eventful outing with two crucial wickets. It seems unlikely Shankar will be dropped after that display and Pant might well have to wait for his chance to arrive.

However, there might be no better opportunity for Kohli to experiment with Pant in the playing XI with Afghanistan in disastrous form at the moment.

In the bowling department, Mohammed Shami is set to get his first outing of the tournament with Bhuvneshwar Kumar sidelined for up to three games with a hamstring niggle.

AFGHANISTAN IN TURMOIL

Less than a year ago, Afghanistan held India to a tie in a thrilling Asia Cup clash in the UAE but all that seems a distant memory as they look to salvage some pride in a campaign which is fast turning into a shocker.

The tournament minnows did manage to put in a respectable batting display in their recent clash against England but still had to walk away with a 150-run defeat after conceding nearly 400 runs with the ball.

Things won’t get easier against for them against India after what has been a campaign in turmoil – both on and off in the pitch. It all started with Asghar Afghan being removed as skipper just days before the start of the tournament and it has been all downhill ever since with five comprehensive defeats on the trot in the World Cup.

Even their star bowler Rashid Khan was carted for a record 110 runs in nine overs by England while morale seems low across the entire camp. They will have to put all this behind them quickly if they are to prevent their second World Cup campaign from being a complete disaster.

Its all gone horribly wrong for Afghanistan.

Its all gone horribly wrong for Afghanistan.

KOHLI ON VERGE OF ANOTHER MILESTONE

Just days after becoming the fastest batsman in ODI history to score 11,000 runs, India skipper Kohli is on the verge of breaking another record held jointly by Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.

The superstar batsman could become the fastest batsman to reach 20,000 international runs should he score 104 runs against Afghanistan on Saturday. Tendulkar and Lara had attained the feat after 453 innings apiece while Kohli has only played a total of 415 innings so far across all three formats.

The right-hander has been in good form in the World Cup so far but is yet to register a century. The record should fall sooner rather than later and the Afghanistan clash might just be the perfect time for Kohli to strike his first ton of the tournament.

LIKELY XIs

India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Vijay Shankar/Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.

Afghanistan: Noor Ali Zadran, Gulbadin Naib (c), Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Imram Ali Khil (wk), Dawlat Zadran, Rashid Khan.

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Cricket World Cup 2019: England's Jason Roy itching to be fit in time for Australia clash

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Jason Roy is hoping to face Australia.

Jason Roy remains hopeful of being fit to face Australia next week but admits his hamstring injury is being managed “day by day”.

The explosive opening batsman tore the muscle in his left leg while fielding against the West Indies and was ruled out for at least two games, against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

Jason Roy remains hopeful of being fit to face Australia next week but admits his hamstring injury is being managed “day by day”.

The explosive opening batsman tore the muscle in his left leg while fielding against the West Indies and was ruled out for at least two games, against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

“It’s healing pretty well. It’s all good news. At the moment, I’m still trying to be fit for Australia, and then it’s got to go game by game.

“It can’t be ‘I’ll definitely be back for this game or that game’, it’s something that we have to manage day by day.”

He missed out on a record-breaking day against Afghanistan, during which captain Eoin Morgan hit 17 sixes in a hefty total of 397, but is not mourning the runs he might have missed.

“You do think that but we have the bigger picture in mind,” he said.

“We have the semi-finals and the final and all of that to play for. If you look at it game by game, you can get frustrated, but I don’t do that.”

Provided by Press Association Sports

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Stoinis bullish about in-form Australia's chances against England

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Australia have won 13 out of their last 14 ODIs.

Marcus Stoinis believes Australia’s hot streak in one-day internationals outweighs their recent dismal record against England ahead of next week’s mouthwatering World Cup clash.

David Warner’s 166 from 147 deliveries, his second century of the tournament, led Australia to a 13th victory in their past 14 ODIs after they saw off Bangladesh by 48 runs at Trent Bridge.

Warner and Steve Smith both missed last year’s 5-0 whitewash defeat in England because they were suspended for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal.

England may have won nine of the last 10 ODIs between the sides but Stoinis feels it counts for little ahead of Australia’s meeting with the tournament hosts and favourites at Lord’s on Tuesday.

Stoinis said: “I think the fact we’ve won 13 out of 14 gives us confidence going into that game. Everyone’s been working towards this (tournament) for a long time.

“We’ve got two of the best players in the world that have come back into our side at the right time. We’re playing at the right time for us.”

The all-rounder knows they cannot underestimate the number one ranked side, though, adding: “I’m going to have to nail some yorkers and slower balls, because they’re absolutely flying at the moment.”

Stoinis returned to Australia’s line-up in Nottingham, taking the crucial wicket of Shakib Al Hasan, after missing the wins over Pakistan and Sri Lanka because of a side strain he suffered in the loss to India.

He said: “My initial thought when I did it was ‘oh no, I’m out of the World Cup’. But once I was better I was OK.

“I spent a bit of time with the physio and the doc. A lot of ice at midnight, but only for the first night. After that it was just regulation.

“We didn’t put a time on it. The support staff did a really good job with that, and not over-reacting. They gave me a chance going into this game, which was probably the deadline.

“The last couple of weeks have been so exciting – a bit of a roller coaster – but then I was so down in the dumps that I hurt myself the other day. Now I’m stoked that I’m back in the team and doing my thing.”

Australia’s fifth win in six leaves them well placed for a top-four finish and progression to the semi-finals but Bangladesh’s hopes are on a knife edge after a third loss.

The Tigers made a decent fist of attempting to overhaul Australia’s 381 for five, responding with their highest ODI total of 333 for eight, thanks to Mushfiqur Rahim’s defiant century and fifties from Mahmudullah and Tamim Iqbal.

Tamim, though, refuses to believe their tournament is over, saying: “We still have a chance.

“I don’t think any of my team-mates are thinking along those lines (of being knocked out). We have a chance if we win three matches.”

Provided by Press Association Sports

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