“How,” asks Andrew Harrison, “do you think Afghanistan will react to the disappointment of their last game? Is there much chance they can pull off an upset here?” Well, most of them have dealt with bigger disappointments, so yes, there is a chance, but it’s slim, and it got a little slimmer when Kane Williamson won the toss. The pitch looks a touch green, but Taunton is usually full of runs and Afghanistan probably need 250 to make a game of it.
Hit it like it’s 1999
It was 20 years ago today (plus a fortnight), Sgt Sourav told the band to play. The last time Taunton hosted a men’s ODI was at the 1999 World Cup, when India played Sri Lanka. The day is remembered for one thing – a stand of 318 by Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. It ought to be known for something else too: being a first taste of ODI cricket for a Somerset boy called Jos Buttler, who went along as a spectator, aged eight, and formed the impression that you are supposed to hit the ball out of the ground – something he’s just done, for the millionth time, in Cardiff.
“Would’ve liked NZ to bat,” says Joachim Suggate, “and see what kind of total they could put up.” Amen to that, but maybe Afghanistan can catch them under the lights, which are brand new and therefore liable to go wrong.
Is this an email I see before me?
“Anyone for Porter?” asks Brian Withington, spotting my source for the last line of the preamble. “Afternoon Tim. Showing an early glimpse of stocking? God that man knew how to write a lyric …” He did. But let’s face it, if he was starting out today, he’d be writing for the OBO.
One team is unchanged, and you can probably guess which.
Afghanistan 1 Hazratullah, 2 Noor Ali, 3 Rahmat Shah, 4 Hashmatullah, 5 Nabi, 6 Gulbadin (capt), 7 Najibullah, 8 Ikram Alikhil (wkt), 9 Rashid Khan, 10 Aftab Alam, 11 Hamid Hassan.
NZ 1 Guptill, 2 Munro, 3 Williamson (capt), 4 Taylor, 5 Latham (wkt), 6 Neesham, 7 de Grandhomme, 8 Santner, 9 Henry, 10 Ferguson, 11 Boult.
Toss: NZ have a bowl
Great for the leaders, not so good for the game.
Afternoon everyone. (Anyone?) This is the game for you if you support New Zealand, have a soft spot for Afghanistan, can’t abide England or like a bit of novelty. These two teams have only ever met once in one-day internationals, in the last World Cup, when Daniel Vettori made sure it wasn’t much of a contest. But that was in Napier, where I suspect there weren’t many Afghanistan supporters. Today, in Taunton, at the weekend, the cheers should be more evenly distributed.
The New Zealanders are top of the table with two wins out of two and a commanding net run rate, but they’ve had a relatively gentle start (Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). Afghanistan have lost to Australia and, more painfully, to Sri Lanka, but they’re spirited and skilful and will surely rattle one of the big teams in this World Cup. Today would be a great time to do it, as it would prove, with four weeks of the round robin still to come, that these days, heaven knows, anything goes.
Play starts at 1.30pm BST and the forecast is for sunny spells.