Afghanistan will face Sri Lanka in their second Cricket World Cup match at the Cardiff stadium on Tuesday.
The match will kick off at 2pm Kabul time on Tuesday.
Despite only one previous Cricket World Cup appearance and relative inexperience against top-level opposition, Afghanistan will go into this tournament knowing that they are capable of toppling the best of sides.
Sitting at No.10 in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI rankings, they are the lowest ranked team in the tournament. This will not dismay them however, as they boast a roster of short-format global icons, and an impressive warmup game victory against Pakistan was a timely way to outline their intentions before the campaign begins.
They won just once in their previous outing at cricket's flagship tournament, against Scotland, but the side's meteoric rise since achieving Full Membership in 2017 has captured the imagination of cricket fans worldwide. Qualifying for the tournament-proper via success in the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan have quickly established themselves as a force in world cricket, their success encapsulated by their outstanding, exuberant supporters whose contributions are almost as impactful and colourful as their beloved nation’s performances.
To put things into perspective, since World Cup 2015, Afghanistan has won more One Day International contests than Sri Lanka despite participating in 22 lesser games.
Although Sri Lankan skipper Dimuth Karunaratne is being quite practical about his side’s chances in this World Cup, he hopes to see a better performance from his team against Afghanistan.
However, Sri Lanka has never won a game at the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff in the six matches they have played there. Their sixth defeat came against New Zealand, earlier in this mega tournament.
On the other side are Afghanistan; a team which fights; a team which works hard in silence; a team which is constantly improving. Against Australia, in their opening clash, Afghanistan tried to hit out of the way. However, in 50-overs cricket, that is seldom a successful approach and although Afghanistan was impressive in patches, they will need to play good cricket for 100 overs to clinch a win against a top side.
The match is also under rain threat as it is expected to rain in Cardiff when the teams are scheduled to meet.
However, keeping all that aside, it is during this World that Afghanistan’s ODI Ranking and reputation will be tested against top-rated ODI sides and at international cricket’s most coveted tournament. As both the teams meet for this game, Afghanistan’s Rahmat Shah — who is their leading run scorer since 2015 — and their wrist spinners will be in the spotlight.
As far as Sri Lanka are concerned, the wise old head of Angelo Mathews needs to produce an innings of substance here. Lasith Malinga is fit and available for selection while Nuwan Pradeep might get a spot in the Playing 11 after missing out on the New Zealand game.
A fascinating contest is on the cards then from the Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. The action begins from 3:00 PM (IST).
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Aftab Alam, Asghar Afghan, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Hazratullah Zazai, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Mujeeb ur Rehman, Najibullah Zadran, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Rashid Khan, Samiullah Shinwari
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Dhananjaya de Silva, Nuwan Pradeep, Avishka Fernando, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga, Angelo Mathews, Kusal Mendis (wk), Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Perera (wk), Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Lahiru Thirimanne, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay