Australia have started their World Cup campaign strongly, dismantling Afghanistan at the Bristol County Ground.
Playing a team like Afghanistan so early in the tournament shaped as a danger game for the Aussies, who had won eight straight coming into the tournament against India and Pakistan.
But, even the spin barrage of the Afghanis wasn’t going to be enough to shut down the Australians, after they were set just 208 for victory.
It was Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins who got the Aussies off to a good start after they were asked to bowl first by new Afghani captain Gulbadin Naib.
Naib would have been wishing he had of elected to bowl after his side found themselves at 2 for 5 in the second over as Mohammad Shahzad lost his stumps to Starc, then Hazratullah Zazai edged through to Alex Carey from the bowling of Cummins.
Rahmat Shah was the only man who held things together for Afghanistan during the first 20 overs of their innings, with Hashmatullah Shahidi falling to Adam Zampa, and Mohammad Nabi being ran out brilliantly by Steve Smith.
The middle eastern nation, who had to qualify for the tournament, found themselves at 5 for 71 when Rahmat got himself out as captain Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran joined up at the crease.
The wheels started to fall off Australia’s bowling during their partnership of 83, with far too much short-pitched stuff, and Zampa struggling for any consistency
One of Zampa’s overs went for 22, as Najibullah managed to bring up a half-century. Topped off by some big hitting down the lower order from Rashid Khan, who scored 27 off just 11 balls, and Mujbeen Ur Rahman, who was the last man out, Afghanistan made it all the way to 207.
While Australia were the better side throughout the match, there are certainly some concerns to take out of their bowling performance, and allowing Afghanistan to end up where they did after being 5 for 71 simply won’t cut it against some of the stronger opposition.
Afghanistan will be frustrated they couldn’t turn it into an even larger score though, given they gave up 70 balls by being bowled out, and that the wickets of Naib and Zadran fell in the same over, both to very poor shots.
In reply, it was all Aaron Finch early on as he dominated a strong opening partnership with David Warner. By the time their stand of 96 came to an end, Finch had blasted 66 from just 49 balls, clearing the small boundary rope in Bristol four times.
It was the hit out Finch needed after struggling through the warm-up games, with only Hamid Hassan threatening either him or Warner during the opening exchanges.
Warner went on to finish not out, batting within himself right throughout the innings, to uncharacteristically finish with a strike rate of under 80 for his 89.
Australia dealt with the Afghanistan spin trio solidly, and while Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith both got out reasonably cheaply, there was never a question about the result in what had the potential to be a banana peel game.
The Aussies will now take on the West Indies next Thursday in another danger game, while Afghanistan will continue their search for victory against Sri Lanka after a short turnaround on Tuesday.
Afghanistan 10/207 (38.2) – Najibullah Zadran (51), Rahmat Shah (43), Gulbadin Naib (31), Pat Cummins 3/40, Adam Zampa 3/60, defeated by Australia 3/209 (34.5) – David Warner (89), Aaron Finch (66), Gulbabin Naib 1/32
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