Australia begin their 2019 Cricket World Cup campaign when they take on Afghanistan in a day/night encounter in Bristol on Saturday.
The game will be the much-awaited international return of David Warner and Steve Smith with Australia surging into contention as real candidates to lift the trophy.
A come-from-behind 3-2 win over India followed by a 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan and successful pre-tournament warm-ups have put Australia in the right frame of mind ahead of this match.
The return of Warner and Smith has already boosted their squad, while Glenn Maxwell remains a dark horse bet to contribute with both bat and the ball.
Bowling is equally strong with Pat Cummins leading the charge and Adam Zampa donning the role of a wicket taker. It will be interesting to see if captain Aaron Finch accommodates both his spinners for this game.
The Afghans recorded a surprise win over Pakistan in the first warm-up was just a reminder of their potential, although the thumping at the hands of England put things into perspective going into their second World Cup.
In total, Afghanistan have won 12 of their last 18 ODIs, and have gained a ticket here winning the ICC Qualifier. With their batting still not up to the aggressive standards of ODI cricket, Afghanistan will hope that their spinners weave a web around the Aussie batsmen.
- Australia have won their last six World Cup games.
- Australia have lost just three matches in the ICC World Cups since 27 May 1999.
- Afghanistan have won eight of their last 13 completed ODIs played at neutral venues.
- Afghanistan have lost both the H2H matches.
Steve Smith will be hungry for runs after missing out one year of action. With five 50+ scores in five warm-up games, he has shown that his appetite for big runs hasn’t diminished and he will be key to Australia’s chances.
It should be a straight forward victory for the Aussies, so bet on Smith.
Prediction: Top Australian Batsman – Steve Smith ($5.00 MadBookie)