We’ve got the close one! Who would have thought that, out of four matches including nothing but test teams, the match between reigning champions, and 5-time winners Australia and lowly Afghanistan who were the last to qualify, would be the close one? Yet that was exactly what we got. Afghanistan struggled to 207, bowled out with nearly 12 overs to spare, then Australia lost 3 wickets in the chase, taking just shy of 35 overs. While it wasn’t exactly nailbiting and there was never a time in the match when we were in any doubt who would win, it was definitely closer than any of the other matches.
Five Things We Learned:
(1) Afghanistan don’t lie down
It wasn’t so long ago that we’d see an associate team in a World Cup get off to a bad start and just fold. Indeed, both Sri Lanka and Pakistan arguably did exactly that in recent matches, but not Afghanistan. Even with 8 wickets down and numbers 8 and 10 at the wicket, they still hit 21 runs off an over. They just simply refused to lie down. While the fielding was perhaps subpar and there were moments when the bowling looked pretty ordinary, they certainly fought hard. If only their subcontinental neighbours Sri Lanka and Pakistan had shown such spirit.
(2) David Warner is still pretty good
Granted that his strike rate was only 78.07, far below Warner’s usual standards, but he still managed 89 not out, which was really what was needed when chasing a low total of 208. While there is an argument that Australia took too long to chase the total down, and that it will affect their chances of making the semi-finals if they were tied on points with another team vying for that 4th and final spot, we are a long way off that stage, and right now Australia are just trying to win every match, and they are well on track for that.
(3) Australia’s bowling is pretty good
For this match, Australia went in with Marcus Stoinis and Nathan Coulter-Nile, leaving just two specialist pace bowlers, which you’d think would make them pretty weak, but when you saw Stoinis take 2 wickets in an over, and Nathan Zampa recover from being smashed around to take 3, then you know you’ve got a pretty good attack. Coulter-Nile was the only one not to take a wicket but this team with just three specialist bowlers, only two of them pace, still bowled Afghanistan out, and 9 of the 10 wickets to fall fell to bowlers. Just imagine if Coulter-Nile was left out in favour of a specialist pacer. With both Behrendorff and Kane Richardson waiting in the wings, as well as their premier test spinner Nathan Lyon, they could have been that much more dangerous. Australia clearly went in with extra batting here, but then didn’t need it.
(4) Booed to a man of the match award
While the boos were decidedly less than in the warm-up match against England, they were still very present, with David Warner booed as he reached his half century, and booed as he accepted the man of the match award. It wasn’t Afghan fans either – they couldn’t care less about the whole episode – it was neutrals, and perhaps some of the Australian fans too. Much has been said about how it affects the players, with Warner reportedly saying pre-match that it really hurt him. He’d probably be better served to at least pretend he likes it, or else it’ll just get worse. Do they know nothing about how heckling works?
(5) Rashid Khan is the 6th bowler
World number 1 bowler gets to be the 6th bowler used, and they weren’t just token single overs either. The 5 bowlers who were used before Rashid Khan each bowled at least 4.5 overs – Mujeeb uh Rahman was the least used. It shows the depth of Afghanistan cricket that they could genuinely do it. He also batted as low as 8, in spite of showing significant batting prowess in the IPL. He has an ODI average of 22.91 yet bats at 8. His bowling average is 15.62 yet he is the 6th bowler used. Afghanistan showed a lot of depth here and a lot of fight!