Afghanistan vs Australia Preview: Steve Smith, David Warner Start Campaign With Fire In The Belly As Australia Play Afghanistan
Steve Smith and David Warner return to international cricket as Australia begin their title defence in World Cup 2019.
Steve Smith and David Warner will be under the spotlight
Brett Lee expects the pair to make big contributions
Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon lend variety to the bowling attack
Steve Smith and David Warner will be under the spotlight in their comeback One-day International (ODI) after completing one-year bans for ball-tampering when Australia take on Afghanistan in the World Cup 2019 at County Ground, Bristol, on Saturday. Having played last ODI in January 2018, both Steve Smith and David Warner are hungrier than ever to score runs and prove their mettle in cricket's biggest extravaganza. While Steve Smith created a storm before his arrival with a century in a warm-up game against England, opening batsman David Warner played a promising knock of 43 after finishing as top run-scorer in recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019.
The defending champions have endured a tumultuous past year but the Aaron Finch-led side are peaking at the right time and are considered one of the favourites in the 50-over showpiece event.
After edging out hosts India 3-2 in a five-match ODI series in March, Australia welcomed back Smith and Warner with open arms.
But they are not expected to be given an easy ride by English fans, with former captain Smith being booed and called a "cheat" during the England warm-up game.
Former Australian paceman Brett Lee expects the pair to make big contributions but has warned they might need thick skin playing in front of the English crowds.
"I don't think they have got a point to prove, they will just be happy to be back playing for Australia," said Lee, who won the tournament with Australia in 2003.
"They have been welcomed back to the Australian cricket team with open arms, and I reckon they have a shot at winning.
"You have got the Barmy Army, you have got guys like Kevin Pietersen chirping at me already. They are going to cop some sledging, but you need thick skin," he added.
Australia also boast a potent pace attack led by Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, ably supported by Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson.
Spinners Adam Zampa and Nathan Lyon lend variety to the bowling attack that combined to get the better of England and Sri Lanka in warm-up games.
The five-time champions will start as overwhelming favourites in Bristol against an Afghanistan side only playing their second 50-over World Cup.
Afghanistan's rise from associate-nation status to cricket's elite has been nothing short of a fairy tale.
The minnows witnessed a captaincy change two months before the start of the World Cup, with little-known Gulbadin Naib named leader of the ODI side in place of Asghar Afghan, a move that did not go down well with some senior members of the team.
But the team have now settled to focus on their World Cup campaign.
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (capt), Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman.
Australia: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steven Smith, Shaun Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Kane Richardson, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins.
The match starts at 6 PM IST.
(With AFP inputs)