Sri Lanka’s recent cricketing endeavors in the 50-over format have been far from impressive. They suffered a resounding defeat in the Asia Cup final against India and further stumbled in their first World Cup warm-up match against Bangladesh. These setbacks have raised concerns about their preparedness for the forthcoming tournament. In their final practice match against Afghanistan in Guwahati on October 3, the Lankan Lions will be eager to turn the tide and fine-tune their skills. Afghanistan, too, has much at stake in this warm-up game, especially since their initial practice match was washed out. Additionally, their previous ODI encounter with Sri Lanka was a nail-biting thriller, hinting at another exciting showdown.
Afghanistan’s recent triumphs in bilateral series, including T20Is and ODIs against teams like a second-string Pakistan and Bangladesh, have showcased their potential to challenge full-member teams. These victories underline Afghanistan’s growing maturity as a cricketing force. The upcoming World Cup serves as a litmus test for their ability to apply these lessons on the grand stage.
Much of Afghanistan’s recent success can be attributed to their exceptional opening partnership featuring Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmanullah Gurbaz. This duo, combined with the spin wizardry of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, has been instrumental in their victories. However, like many Asian teams, Afghanistan grapples with maintaining consistency in the middle-order.
Afghanistan’s innings often lose momentum after promising starts, emphasizing the importance of contributions from Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan, particularly in the latter stages, to bolster a somewhat fragile middle-order.
On the brighter side, Afghanistan has made remarkable progress in their fast bowling department, led by the talented left-armer Fazalhaq Farooqi. Farooqi’s ability to swing the new ball, execute precision yorkers, and unleash well-crafted slower deliveries could prove invaluable in providing early breakthroughs.
The team’s main spinner, Rashid Khan, boasts an exceptional ODI track record, claiming 172 wickets at an average of 19.53. However, his performance statistics against Full Member teams gearing up for the World Cup are less stellar, with 41 wickets at an average of 28.80.
While Afghanistan’s campaign leans heavily on their top-order and spin departments, the real test lies in how their relatively weaker middle-order and pace attack perform against formidable opponents like Sri Lanka. This warm-up encounter will provide insights into these crucial aspects.
Afghanistan Predicted Playing XI: Hashmatullah Shahidi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Azmatullah Omarzai, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fareed Ahmad/ Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi
Sri Lanka Preview
Sri Lanka’s recent ODI journey includes a 13-match winning streak, characterized by their ability to consistently dismiss oppositions. However, a recurring theme during this period has been their vulnerability to batting collapses.
The absence of star all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga due to injury is a significant setback for Sri Lanka in the upcoming World Cup. Hasaranga’s leg-spin played a pivotal role in the team’s successful defense of low scores during their unbeaten run in the World Cup Qualifiers. The team’s fate now hinges on whether Maheesh Theekshana’s mysterious spin and Dunith Wellalage’s recent performances can compensate for Hasaranga’s absence. Furthermore, Matheesha Pathirana’s effectiveness in the middle and death overs adds depth to their bowling department. With left-arm speedster Dilshan Madushanka capable of swinging the new ball, Sri Lanka possesses a well-rounded bowling arsenal.
The performance of Sri Lanka’s batters will be under scrutiny, especially on Indian pitches expected to favor either rank turn or flat conditions. Whether it’s Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis igniting the innings with their flamboyant style or Sadeera Samarawickrama’s composure in the middle order, Sri Lanka boasts a versatile lineup adaptable to various conditions.
Pathum Nissanka, Sri Lanka’s leading run-scorer in ODIs this year, partners effectively with Perera at the top. Nissanka’s refined technique complements Perera’s aggressive approach.
Captain Dasun Shanaka’s recent batting struggles have raised concerns. Since the beginning of the qualifiers, his batting average stands at a mere 6.60, accompanied by a strike rate of 57.39. Considering his role as a lower-middle-order finisher, Shanaka’s contributions, both with the bat and the ball, become even more crucial in Hasaranga’s absence.
Charith Asalanka, the leading run-scorer at the No. 5 position since the start of 2021, holds the key. His ability to find boundaries early in his innings and his composed temperament are vital for Sri Lanka’s quest for respectable scores in the World Cup.
Sri Lanka Predicted Playing XI: Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis (wk), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (c), Dimuth Karunaratne, Dunith Wellalage/Kasun Rajitha, Maheesh Theekshana, Matheesha Pathirana, Pathum Nissanka
PITCH AND WEATHER CONDITIONS
Weather Conditions The Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati is known for its flat track with minimal assistance for seamers. Batsmen are likely to enjoy batting here, with the ability to start hitting through the line and dominate bowlers once they settle. While spinners may come into play as the pitch softens, they are unlikely to have a significant impact, given the batters’ potential to dominate proceedings.
The weather forecast for Guwahati suggests cloudy conditions with the possibility of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Venue Details The Barsapara Cricket Stadium has witnessed two ODIs, both characterized by high-scoring encounters. On both occasions, teams posted totals exceeding 300 runs, with India’s 373-7 against Sri Lanka earlier this year being the highest. In this match, the team batting first should aim to set a total around 330.
Toss: To Bat Considering this is a warm-up match, teams are likely to opt for batting first to provide their batters ample time in the middle.
AFG vs SL Winning Prediction Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, both spin-heavy sides, will aim to test their bowlers in this match. However, it’s their batting units that require significant work. Sri Lanka’s batters underperformed in their first warm-up against Bangladesh and have an opportunity to make amends on this flat track. For Afghanistan, this represents the final chance to build momentum before the tournament begins. While Sri Lanka is favored to dominate this contest, Afghanistan’s aggressive batters could add a thrilling dimension.
Today’s Match Prediction: Sri Lanka
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