England has a reputation to protect. The defending champion may have taken off on the wrong foot in the World Cup but the thumping win over Bangladesh has underlined its preparedness.
On Sunday, on a batter-friendly surface at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground here, England will eye a run-feast at the expense of a winless Afghanistan.
Going by the fact that 754 runs were scored here in the South Africa-Sri Lanka match and how India chased down Afghanistan’s 272 in just 35 overs, England would love to do its net run-rate some good.
Afghanistan’s inexperience stands exposed on the big stage, especially against the elite teams. Somehow, the team gives the impression that in spite of all the individual brilliance, it is not prepared enough for the 50-over format.
Having lost 14 successive matches in the World Cup since 2015, Afghanistan is clearly one of the teams against which the semifinal aspirants are looking to better their net run-rate. On its part, Afghanistan is trying to prove that it is more than just a competitive T20 side. Afghanistan batters and bowlers are yet to consistently show the temperament needed to excel in the ODIs.
England knows that it will be up against a three-pronged spin attack comprising Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rehman and Mohammad Nabi on a pitch that does not assist spin. Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott, an Englishman with over 200 internationals caps and the batting coach of England on its tour of India in 2021, is expected to give some valuable inputs.
But England is not worried. The champion side would love to bat first and give its batters an opportunity to score big.
Considering the stiffer challenges in the matches ahead, a good hit here will serve as a confidence-booster. Apart from the in-form top-order comprising Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and Joe Root, the middle-order consisting of skipper Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Harry Brook, Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes will be among those looking for time at the crease.
Overall, England looks good to collect an anticipated victory with a good run-rate to boot.