India looks to follow England with run-fest vs Afghanistan
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — The scoreboard may need as much preparation and maintenance checks as the wicket ahead of Saturday's anticipated run-fest when India seeks to follow title rival England by thumping Afghanistan at the Cricket World Cup.
India and England remain the bookmakers' favorites to contest the July 14 final at Lord's. That's despite unbeaten New Zealand and a genuinely resurgent Australia, which has lost only one of its six games, that loss against India.
If it bats first at Hampshire's Rose Bowl, Virat Kohli's team will likely be targeting Afghanistan for the biggest total of the tournament so far. That honor currently belongs to England which smashed Afghanistan for 397-6 on Tuesday. India can also boost its net run rate, a potential tiebreaker if it stumbles later on.
Afghanistan has lost all five games so far but shown signs of improvement, including against England where it used all 50 overs for the first time this tournament. It still lost by 150 runs, thanks mostly to England captain Eoin Morgan's 71-ball 148 and an ODI record 17 sixes into the crowd at Old Trafford.
One Indian batsman who won't have any such record in mind is opener Shikhar Dhawan, who has fractured his thumb and been replaced in the squad by Rishabh Pant.
Pant, whose test average is 50 but only 23 for ODIs in just four innings, was told he had "time on his hands" when originally left out of the squad. He could well make his World Cup debut on Saturday. He's a spurned 21-year-old in a hurry and swinging a big bat — just what Afghanistan didn't need.
If it's any consolation for Afghanistan's batsmen, they will be facing a changed India bowling lineup.
Jasprit Bumrah will open with a new partner after Bhuvneshwar Kumar was sidelined for two games with a hamstring strain. The world's top-ranked ODI paceman has five wickets so far in three completed games for India, which was the last team to start the tournament and has three wins against South Africa — at Southampton — Australia and archrival Pakistan. It also had a washout against New Zealand.
Mohammed Shami is set to come in to share the new ball against Afghanistan. He led India's attack at the 2015 World Cup, but hasn't played in the ODI format since March.
The highest World Cup total is 417-6 by Australia against Afghanistan in Perth en route to the title in 2015. India is second with 413-5 against Bermuda in 2007.
If India wants a benchmark for Southampton, it can always look at England's one game at the Rose Bowl when it beat West Indies. The good news? England reached a comparatively modest 213 runs for the loss of two wickets. The bad news? It had almost 17 overs left.