South Africa have never lost 3 games in a row in a world cup before, so this has been their worst tournament since their readmission to cricket in 1991/92. Their fourth game against West Indies was rained off leaving them with a difficult path to semi-finals from here. They would have to win all their games starting with this one to have a chance to make it to last four. South Africa’s problem has been their batting. Their top order has struggled with an out of form Hashim Amla and a middle order which isn’t consistent.
The run scoring has been mostly isolated to Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock. Their bowling also suffered injuries to Lungi Ngidi and Dale Steyn. Kagiso Rabada has been good but he has lacked support from the other end. Chris Morris though had a good game against India and South Africa will be hoping that the all-rounder continues his good form through the tournament for them. They would need a collective effort against a dangerous Afghanistan unit who can surprise any team on their day.
The Afghanistan team though have had a similar start to South Africa and have lost all their 3 games so far. Even though they have fought well in all their games, they just haven’t had the firepower in the batting to challenge the top bowlers. Their bowling though especially the spinners have done well and with world-class Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi in their side, they can trouble any batting line up. The Afghanistan top order has struggled on wickets which has a bit in them for the pacers. They have gotten off to some fast starts but have lost their way trying to be over attacking. Losing Mohammad Shahzad in controversial circumstances has made their batting more vulnerable and needs some support from their experienced campaigners to challenge South Africa.
Head to Head:
South Africa have never played a game against Afghanistan before and this will be their first ever against the new entrants.
Hashim Amla (South Africa): Despite struggling with the bat over the last 18 months Hash is still South Africa’s best-limited overs batter. With almost 8000 ODI runs at 49 Hashim Amla needs to fire if South Africa needs to turn this around. Cardiff probably is the place for Amla to be as the pitch is batting friendly and the new ball attack of the opposition is the least threatening of all teams.
Imran Tahir (South Africa): South Africa have lost their two best bowlers to injury and in a depleted attack Imran Tahir along with Kagiso Rabada are expected to make the play. Tahir is one of leading wrist spinners in the world and he would need to find his groove for South Africa to succeed in this tournament.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): Afghanistan has struggled with the bat so far but their bowling has fought valiantly so far in all games. Rashid Khan has been brilliant with the ball for his side and against South Africa, he will once again be crucial in the middle overs.
Hazratullah Zazai (Afghanistan): Afghanistan batsmen haven’t found their range yet in this world cup but Zazai has been in good form. The dasher at the top of the order has got off to some starts but has thrown his wicket away a couple of times. Afghanistan would need him to make his starts count and if he does, they will be much more dangerous.
What they said?
“Honestly it’s just been checking in with every guy individually, see where he or she is, and then just making sure that I make it clear to them that there needs to be a purpose in what’s coming up. You can’t just hope for things to change. Hope’s a very dangerous thing for me; you have to make it happen, you need to get yourself out of that space as quick as possible,” du Plessis said.
“We haven’t had enough top-level cricket so when you get in that situation with the bat, you say OK, he’s bowling well, just see him off for a couple of overs,” Afghanistan’s bowling coach Langeveldt says. “For them, it’s seen the ball, hit the ball. They think we need to get runs on the board now. No, it’s a process. They’ve only just started playing four-day cricket. That’s where your basis for 50-over cricket comes from.”
South Africa XI:
Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir
Hazratullah Zazai, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadran, Ikram Ali khil (wk), Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan
Afghanistan is a very good white ball side but again in any format, you would expect the South African side to prevail over them. This will be a good game but South Africa just have enough in their tank to win this one comfortably.