Afghanistan will still win games at this World Cup, according to Eoin Morgan, and that belief has made the England captain hyper-aware of avoiding a slip-up at Old Trafford.
Afghanistan have four defeats from four matches so far but have shown plenty of glimpses of the talent they possess – especially in a narrow loss to Sri Lanka.
Conversely, the hosts already have three victories to their name and also beat the Afghans by nine wickets in a warm-up match ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
Yet Morgan is adamant his side won’t be taking anything for granted despite being heavy favourites and believes Gulbadin Naib’s troops have plenty of weapons that could cause problems.
“I’d like to think we’ve been red-hot favourites in a couple of games already and underlining our preparation is the humility and gratitude with which we go about things,” he said.
“That’s an important part of trying to beat teams like Afghanistan. We went through the same process for the warm-up game.
“They are a strong side and I’ve said before that they will beat teams at this World Cup. They haven’t done it yet, so that makes the game a tougher challenge.
“Their three spinners are their strongest component. It’s a challenge we’ll have to overcome. Pretty much every time we play against an Asian team, that’s the case.
“Look over to their nets and they are practising against quicks, while in our net we’re practising against spin. It’s a challenge for both sides.
“The warm-up match doesn’t mean a great deal. This week has been very important for us – we’ve had a lot of space between games, which has allowed us to come in extremely fresh.”
England beat West Indies by eight wickets last time out but suffered injury scares to both Morgan and Jason Roy.
The skipper is confident he will be fit enough to face Afghanistan, having recovered from the back spasms that sidelined him, while Roy – who made a brilliant 153 against Bangladesh – has torn a hamstring and will miss at least the next two matches.
James Vince will come into the side and open the batting alongside Jonny Bairstow in Roy’s absence but Morgan insists the 28-year-old is still a key part of England’s plans at this World Cup.
“I certainly believe Jason will play again in this tournament,” he added. “He’s out of the next two games but we’ll see after that.
“He might be back against Australia or maybe for the following game. It depends how he responds to treatment and medication.
“We’ll go on a game-by-game basis with him depending on where we are in the tournament and how crucial it is to win the games.
“He’s a huge part of what we’ve been doing and is in the best form of his life. He’s very important to us.”