Australia are hanging in there by the thinnest of margin. Yes, it is the same Australia that we all envisaged as the World Champions of this edition. But T20 is a fickle format, and the way things have gone in the group, anything and everything is still possible.
The worries however, don’t end there for Australia. They sweat over the fitness of two key individuals – Aaron Finch and Tim David – with George Bailey confirming that they would take a decision prior to the game. The good part, however, is that Marcus Stoinis is fit and raring to go against Afghanistan.
After England’s win over New Zealand, it isn’t straightforward for the hosts. The only thing straightforward is that it is yet another must-win encounter for them, which has become the theme of their tournament. All four teams are still in the race, competing for two spots.
There is yet again a possibility that if New Zealand lose to Ireland, Sri Lanka win against England, and Australia win against Afghanistan, it could be Australia and Sri Lanka advancing. That has been pretty much how this year’s tournament has been – unpredictable and thrilling – to say the least.
But all that Australia would care tomorrow is putting on a “complete game of T20”, something that they have only shown signs of.
Both sides sweat over fitness of individuals
It isn’t just Australia who are plagued by injury threats, Afghanistan’s lead spinner Rashid Khan too went down during the final stages of their clash against Sri Lanka. While skipper Mohammad Nabi said he ‘hoped of no serious injuries’, the update from Afghanistan’s assistant coach cleared all the air, saying he is good to go.
Rashid has had a disappointing campaign thus far but with the game in Adelaide, a home away from home for the leg-spinner, his presence could prove to be a difference. For Australia, Bailey said that both Finch and David are partaking in small drills but not have advanced to the serious stuff.
On the eve of the clash, Finch turned up to the press conference, stating that it is a 70-30, and was very honest in his assessment, saying that he will drop himself to the bench if not fully fit. Bailey insists that a final call would only be taken closer to the game. In case Finch is ruled out, Australia could contemplate between picking Cameron Green or Steve Smith, considering the conditions in Adelaide.
But say two players are injured, Australia would be forced to rejig their composition, to accommodate either of Ashton Agar or Kane Richardson to their setup.
What’s in Australia’s hands?
Well, not much. Australia have to beat Afghanistan, that’s the most important part of the things. And if they do that, they will have to do it by a huge margin, huge enough to go past England’s Net run-rate in the group. So, already it seems like a big task for the hosts, who have only played catch-up cricket ever since their opening day clash against New Zealand.
“But yeah, there's obviously some scenarios there that we need to keep an eye on throughout the game, that if we get in a good position that we can maximise it,” said Finch at the press-match press conference.
What was more interesting is the question that followed, will Australia try maximizing their resources to up their net run-rate? And, Finch said that the defending champions could be looking to do that.
“Yeah, potentially. I think we'll sit down as a strategy group after training today, once we've got a bit more information on obviously myself, Tim David, as well,” Finch said on making some tactical decisions including reshuffling the batting order.
There are some scenarios there, they could think about bringing Cameron Green instead of Josh Hazlewood or Starc, which will allow them to go all guns blazing with the bat, given Afghanistan’s batting vulnerabilities. Or from the current XI, Australia could ponder upon sending either of Mitchell Marsh or Stoinis to open the batting alongside Finch.
Why not Warner? Having Warner in the middle-overs against Rashid would be a vital move considering how the others have struggled against him in the past. It is possibly the only way Australia could kill two birds with one stone. Also, Rashid is someone that Warner has battled plenty of times against in the nets.
Rashid Khan vs Australian batters is match-up worth noticing. With the leg-spinner fit and all set to play, his influence on the proceedings, Australia’s net run-rate hustle could be vital.
Finch vs Rashid: 69 runs @34.5 and 153.3 with two dismissals
Maxwell vs Rashid: 77 runs @77 and 113.2 with one dismissal
Stoinis vs Rashid: 39 runs @13 and 125.8 with three dismissals
Wade vs Rashid: 49 runs @153.1 with no dismissal
Marsh vs Rashid: 23 runs @88.5 with no dismissal
David vs Rashid: 40 runs @153.8 with no dismissal
Team Combination and Predicted XI
Leading into this encounter, Afghanistan are almost tied with no choice but to field this XI. Are you sure though? With Australia’s struggle against spin well known, there remains a possibility for Qais Ahmed to get a look in ahead of Fareed Ahmad.
Afghanistan XI: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Usman Ghani, Ibrahim Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Nabi (c), Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fareed Ahmad Malik, Fazalhaq Farooqi
With skipper Finch not exactly sure about his hamstring worry, and David’s fitness a big cloud, Australia might be forced into making two changes, bringing in the explosive all-rounder Cameron Green alongside the ever-effective Ashton Agar.
But if there are no injury concerns, expect Australia to play relatively unchanged, even when they could add more explosiveness to their batting with Green.
Australia XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c)/Cameron Green, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Tim David/Ashton Agar, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood