ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2019
The face-off, this time, is less of a mismatch than it was in Australia’s backyard in 2015 © Getty
The two teams have only played each other once in the history of the World Cup and that happened in the previous edition, 2015, that was co-hosted by Australia. It was a tournament that the Aussies eventually went on to win, thereby increasing their record haul of World Cup titles to five. For Afghanistan, that was their first ever World Cup in the 50-over format and despite being battered by stronger sides, there were clear indications that the Asian side were a bunch to look out for.
Cut to 2019 and they are already a strong side in the subcontinent, thanks to their trio of world-class spinners. In conditions outside Asia, challenges await them and the 2019 World Cup will be a litmus test of their progress thus far. As for Australia, they’ve gained significant momentum in recent months with ODI series wins in India and UAE, which has energized the team after a soul-suckingly, mind-numbingly dampening 2018. The recent form coupled with the return of Steve Smith and David Warner mean that Australia’s chances of defending the title have certainly shot up.
The contest was feared to be a mismatch and that’s precisely how it panned out, resulting in a couple of dubious records for Afghanistan as well. On a flat WACA surface in Perth, Afghanistan erred by opting to field and were sent on a leather-hunt by a dominating Australian batting line-up. David Warner was the destructor-in-chief as he blasted the bowlers to all areas of the park with his inimitable swagger. His partnership with a young Steven Smith put the Aussies on track for a gigantic total.
Maxwell provided the late impetus with a 39-ball 88 after Warner and Smith lay the platform. ©Getty
Warner himself was threatening to not only be the first Australian to break the double-century barrier but also perhaps get into the top individual scores of all time. However, that was not to be as he departed for a dynamic 178 with roughly 12 overs still left in the innings. The platform was set for the final assault and Glenn Maxwell, promoted to no.4, did just that. A few wickets in the final five overs did affect the momentum a wee bit but Maxwell’s blitzkrieg and Brad Haddin’s cameo comfortably propelled Australia to their second highest total in ODIs. If there was any doubt about the result before the game, it was sealed at the halfway mark with this intimidating performance.
Up against a quality pace attack like Australia’s, Afghanistan had no chance of survival, let alone making the chase interesting. The pace trio of Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood proved too hot to handle for the inexperienced Afghanistan batting line-up with only Nawroz Mangal and Mohammad Nabi showing some spine against the fury. Eventually, the innings was cleaned up in just over 38 overs and Australia recorded their highest margin of victory in ODIs in terms of runs (and second-highest overall). Warner was awarded the Man of the Match for his brilliant knock.