World Cup 2019: South Africa, Afghanistan look to post maiden win

Down and out, the two bottom-placed teams know that this will be their best chance to post their first win in the ongoing 50-over showpiece.

Faf du Plessis bats during a nets session as Aiden Markram watches on.   -  AFP

Winless so far in the tournament, both South Africa and Afghanistan will be eagerly looking to tick the victory box when they take on each other in a World Cup encounter on Saturday.

Down and out, the two bottom-placed teams know that this will be their best chance to post their first win in the ongoing 50-over showpiece.

This is perhaps the first time that South Africa, from the very beginning, was never in contention to make it to the semifinals but remaining winless after four matches is something unexpected.

After three straight losses against England, Bangladesh and India, its fourth match against the West Indies was abandoned due to rain.

Afghanistan faced a similar fate, losing all three of their matches till now to defending champions Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

However, the players of the war-torn nation can take confidence from the fact that they gave a good account of themselves against the Sri Lankans and almost pulled it off.

While Afghanistan will be fancying its chances against a lowly South Africa side, the Proteas would be more than keen to live up to their past reputation and make a statement against the Asian minnows.

South Africa has been mostly done in by its inexperienced batting line-up, coupled with injuries to a few of its key players. The South Africa batsmen have been struggling, and even in the wash-out game against West Indies, they were down at 29/2 before the match was called off.

Experienced Hashim Amla has been is in dismal form and the semi-finalists of the 2015 edition can only hope that the veteran batsmen start to fire.

The responsibility rests on the shoulders of skipper Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock and the two will be expected to bring their ‘A’ game into the fore against Afghanistan.

Batting remains a concern for Afghanistan as well and with Mohammad Shahzad back home due to fitness issues, they will have their back against the wall.

“We looked forward, so we didn't go to the past. We had one week off. We got plenty of good things in this last week,” Naib told reporters on Friday.

“Obviously we missed Shahzad. We have good youngsters on the team now on the side, so we're excited for the next game.”

The Afghanistan captain also said Rashid Khan, who suffered concussion after being hit by Lockie Ferguson in the last match, is "feeling much better". The leg-break bowler has been involved in Afghanistan's training session on the eve of the match.

It would be an uphill task for the Afghanistan batters against the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir. Just like their rivals, the Afghans would also be banking on their bowlers led by leg-spinner Rashid Khan.

The Teams (from):

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, JP Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Beuran Hendricks, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi.

Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (c), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah (wk), Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ikram Ali Khil.

Match starts at 6pm IST

(with inputs from AFP)