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Cricket World Cup 2019: Challengers Afghanistan have the opportunity to cause a few blushes to reigning champions Australia

01 Jun 2019, 16:59 IST

All eyes will be on what Rashid Khan can do in the World Cup.
All eyes will be on what Rashid Khan can do in the World Cup.

When was the last time that the reigning champions took on the bottom ranked team in a top tournament in their opening match? That is the curious situation as Australia face off with Afghanistan in the World Cup on Saturday, 1st June.

It is not as if Afghanistan are pushovers. Their rise in international cricket has been meteoric, leaving behind so many associate member teams that had gained a foothold since the 1992 World Cup. They became the 20th team to play in the World Cup, and are now one of ten in 2019. They got into the World Cups 2015 and 2019 the hard way, coming through International Cricket Council’s (ICC) qualifying tournaments, ahead of teams like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and United Arab Emirates. For this alone they must have the respect of the world cricket community.   

In the 2015 World Cup Afghanistan beat Scotland by 1 wicket in a thriller that went to the last over. Man of the match Samiullah Shinwari hit up 96 off 147 balls, their highest score in the World Cup. Left-arm paceman Shapoor Zadran captured four for 38, Afghanistan’s best analysis and only four-wicket haul in the World Cup. Seamer Dawlat Zadran, who took three for 29, earlier snapped up a wicket off his first ball in the premier event against Sri Lanka. 

But it is the leg-spinner Rashid Khan who has burst on to the scene as a huge star. He already has 125 One-day International wickets in his kitty at an astounding average of 15.33, best haul of seven for 18, and an economy rate of 3.90. All eyes will be on what he can do in the World Cup.

Australia are the reigning champions, they have won the World Cup five times out of eleven, and are obviously the top team in all-time World Cup standings. They are currently ranked fifth in the ICC One-day International rankings, but are bolstered by the return of Steve Smith and David Warner.

In the 2015 World Cup, Australia trounced Afghanistan by 275 runs, the biggest margin in the World Cup. Will the match be so one-sided again? The Afghans certainly have the opportunity to cause the holders some blushes.

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