Match #6 of the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 will feature an Asian face-off between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The duel under the sun takes place at the Sophia Gardens in the city of Cardiff, capital of Wales and the setting are pristine considering its proximity to the River Taff.
Afghanistan are considered inexperienced new kids on the cricketing horizon and face Sri Lanka who have a glorious past in Cricketing history. Apart from former World Champions, Sri Lanka were co-champions in 2002 ICC Champions Trophy and five times Asian champions in 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008 and 2014.
The island nation has also finished runners up consecutively in the 2007 and 2011 Cricket World Cups, and have been runners up in the ICC T20 World Cup in 2009 and 2012. The Sri Lankan cricket team currently holds the world record for the highest team total in Test cricket.
The Lions, as the Lankans are known in the Cricketing world, won their maiden World Cup when the event was co-hosted by India and Pakistan in 1996. In the final played at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, they upset the apple cart of the fancied Australia. Batting first, the Aussies put up 241 for the loss of 7 wickets in their allotted 50 overs. In reply, Sri Lanka managed to chase down the target in 46.2 overs to beat Australia by 7 wickets and win the Crown of the World.
In their opening game in this edition of the World Cup, Afghanistan were thrashed to a seven-wicket defeat at the hands of the defending champions Australia in Bristol. Gulbadin Naib’s men slumping to five for two, with both openers back in the pavilion without scoring a run.
Courageous efforts from Rahmat Shah with 43 and Najibullah Zadran’s 51, helped Afghanistan to 207 all out, with more than 11 overs to spare. Australia romped to victory in the 35th over with David Warner top-scoring with 89 not out. Usman Khawaja’s consistent performance adds up to a formidable top order for Australia. David Warner and Steve Smith made their return to official international cricket after ball-tampering bans.
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The Sri Lankan performance in their opening game of the ICC World Cup 2019 has been a distant dream as compared to the days of their past glory. They slumped to a 10 wicket defeat against New Zealand with 203 balls to spare. Kane Williamson won the toss and invited the Lankans to bat.
An unbeaten captain’s knock from Dimuth Karunaratne with 52 runs was backed only by Wicketkeeper batsman Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera with 29 and 27 runs respectively. The wreckers in chief of the black caps were Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson who took 3 wickets each.
In reply, New Zealand were in cruise control as they did not lose a wicket thanks to openers Martin Guptill’s ballistic 73 from 51 balls and Colin Munro’s electrifying 58 from 47 deliveries. Guptil hammered 8 fours and 2 sixes in 81 minutes with a strike rate more than 143. On the other hand, Munro slammed 6 fours and 1 six in his 81 minutes on the crease with a strike rate of plus 123.
While the Lankans would like to forget, forgive and move on to their next league match against Afghanistan, there will be little consolation as Dimuth Karunaratne etched his name in history books becoming the second cricketer to carry his bat in a World Cup match.
The two sides have faced each other thrice in the past. While the balance sways slightly towards the Lankans who have won twice in the 2015 World Cup and 2014 edition of the Asia Cup.
Afghanistan on the other hand, has made steady progress over the years and won the most recent of their encounters against Sri Lanka in the 2018 Asia Cup fixture.
Expectations and Predictions on Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka Encounter:
Afghanistan will rely heavily on the 20 year old, Rashid Khan who is ranked third in the ICC ODI Bowler’s Rankings to strike early with the ball.
As far their batting is concerned the rest of the team has to follow Rahmat Shah and Najibullah Zadran to post a respectable total. A batting order collapse has been the bane on contention for both the team in their opening spells in this World Cup. Afghanistan has to come up with the performance that saw them beat Pakistan in the warm up game.
Sri Lanka has to rely on more players than their captain Karunaratne if they want to get anything from their match against Afghanistan. Eight players in the Sri Lankan innings failed to get into double figures against the Kiwis.
As far as their own bowling attack is concerned, heavyweights like Lasith Malinga will have to lead by example for Lakmal, Udana and Thisara Perera to raise their bar.