England look to stretch winning streak as Afghanistan plot upset - GulfToday

England look to stretch winning streak as Afghanistan plot upset


England’s James Vince bats in the nets during a practice session on Monday. Agence France-Presse

Hosts England will aim to carry on their winning streak with a hat-trick when they meet minnows Afghanistan in the World Cup 2019 group affair at the Old Trafford here on Tuesday. It will also be for the first time when the two teams face off in the 50-over format.

Except for their loss against Pakistan, it’s been a smooth ride for the hosts who have had massive wins in three games. However, the Three Lions will be worried over the fitness of their two key players -- skipper Eoin Morgan and opener Jason Roy as both left the field during the game against West Indies on June 14.

If it happens, James Vince could partner Jonny Bairstow. Moeen Ali is likely to be back in the playing XI as the wicket at Old Trafford has a history of assisting spinners.

Morgan though will be assessed ahead of the Afghanistan clash but he expects to play against the tournament minnows.

“England batsman Jason Roy, who left the field during West Indies’ innings in the ICC Cricket World Cup fixture on Friday due to left hamstring tightness, underwent an MRI scan on Saturday in London,” a team spokesman said.

“The MRI confirmed that Roy has suffered a hamstring tear.

Morgan, speaking at a pre-match press conference on Monday, said he intended to play against Afghanistan after coming through an indoor net session at Old Trafford.

“It’s drastically improved,” he said of his back. “I’ve had a hit in the nets and I’m aiming to play tomorrow,” the middle-order batsman added.

“If the game was today I think I could play. It all depends on how I pull up in the morning.”

England’s only concern could be the form of their spinners who haven’t been upto the mark. However, looking at the wicket here, it seems this time their spinners will also make the most of it.

Afghanistan meanwhile may have looked largely at sea in the World Cup but they can still pull off upsets, skipper Gulbadin Naib said ahead of Tuesday’s clash against hosts England.

The Afghans made their World Cup debut in 2015 when they beat Scotland but are without a win after four matches in their second appearance.

“We are here to win matches but it’s not easy to beat such strong teams in a tournament like World Cup,” Naib said ahead of the team’s practice session at Old Trafford.

“It’s a tough tournament, and the cricket is world class. We’re trying to create upsets and win matches. We’re looking for it.”

Afghanistan gave former champions Sri Lanka a scare but suffered comprehensive defeats by South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

They could not bat out their quota of 50 overs in any of the matches and face India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and West Indies after the game against England.

“We’re trying to put everything in the middle. We know we have the potential to do better but it’s bad luck that we could not do well. We did not like how we played in the last four games.”

Afghan rely heavily on their three-pronged spin attack led by Rashid Khan and Naib felt lack of turn in English surfaces had compromised their strength.

“We’re looking for some spin but we did not find it in the surfaces here,” said Naib, who hopes Old Trafford, where India beat Pakistan on Sunday, would be a different experience.

“The wicket for the India-Pakistan match had some turn. (On such surfaces), teams could be in trouble against Afghanistan.

“Spinners are key for Afghanistan, that’s how we played cricket in the last three years. Spinners are behind the high rate of our success.”

With some assistance from the pitch, Rashid, currently ranked third in ODI bowler’s list, could prove quite a handful against England, Naib said.

“Rashid is not like other bowlers. He’s an attacking bowler, always attacking. It’s his bad luck that surfaces here do not suit him.

“If we get the kind of wicket used for the India-Pakistan match, Rashid could be difficult for any team, not only England.

“He is a key bowler and has been a key part of Afghanistan’s success in the last few years.”


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