March 23, 2023

Big picture

Australia have everything to play for. The defending champions must win big and make huge net run rate gains against Afghanistan to have any hope of reaching the semi-finals. But even if Australia achieve both those things, their destiny is out of their hands as England’s match against Sri Lanka on Saturday will still determine who makes the final four from Group 1.

The hosts have not played anywhere near their best cricket in this tournament and are battling a raft of injury concerns, including their captain Aaron Finch. Should they lose to Afghanistan or even win without progressing to the semi-finals, this could well be the final T20I fling for a number of their senior players. Australia are not scheduled to play another T20I until August 2023 and with the next T20 World Cup in 2024, the likes of Finch, Matthew Wade and David Warner could well be considering their T20I futures.

Afghanistan had high hopes of being a dark horse in Australia but those hopes have been washed away by rain and two substandard batting performances against England and Sri Lanka. Adelaide could suit their style of cricket better than Perth Stadium and the Gabba, with Rashid Khan returning to a place where he is more popular than most South Australians given his exploits with Adelaide Strikers. He has been almost unplayable in the BBL at the venue and Australia will be wary of what he, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman could do to their middle order.

But Afghanistan will need runs. Ireland’s top order was blown away by Australia and Afghanistan’s top six face a similarly stern test against an attack that is yet to fire at full throttle.

More broadly, this will be the first T20I meeting between Australia and Afghanistan. They have only met in three ODIs and have never played a Test match. It is the first meeting since the proposed Hobart Test last year was cancelled by Cricket Australia for political reasons.

Form guide

Australia WWLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Afghanistan LLLLL

In the spotlight

Mitchell Starc was once the most revered new-ball bowler in T20 cricket. He is now a middle-overs specialist not bowling the opening over. Australia have stated that it’s part of a grand plan to best utilise their attack across the 20 overs. The numbers reflect a starker reality for Starc: he is nowhere near the bowler he once was. Prior to 2020, his T20I economy rate was just 6.74 and he conceded more than 10-runs-per-over just twice in 28 matches. Since 2020, his economy rate is 8.48 and he has conceded more than 10-runs-per-over in nine of his last 30 matches, including against Ireland despite striking twice in his first over. He remains a wicket-taker, but he has become an extremely expensive one. Australia need more from their frontline left-arm seamer.

Sounds odd to suggest Rashid Khan would be in the spotlight but coming off some injury concerns and heading to Adelaide, where he is a favourite son, he will hope to have a huge impact at a place that has become a home away from home for him. He has also gone 10 T20s without a three-wicket haul, his last coming in the Asia Cup against Bangladesh. Teams continue to be risk-averse against Rashid out of sheer respect for his quality. But if Afghanistan are to beat Australia, he needs to light up Adelaide with both bat and ball.

Team news

Australia’s XI will depend on the fitness of Finch and Tim David. Both men are carrying hamstring injuries and neither will play if there’s any risk of re-injuring their hamstrings. If they both pass their fitness tests, Australia will likely go in unchanged. If one or either of them are unavailable then both Cameron Green and Steve Smith come into calculation. Wade will captain if Finch is ruled out.

Australia: : (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt)/Cameron Green, 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Tim David/Steven Smith, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood

Rashid has been declared fit despite some concerns over his knee and back coming out of the loss to Sri Lanka in Brisbane. Afghanistan could be unchanged. One other option is potentially adding some batting depth with Darwish Rasooli, given Azmatullah Omarzai has gone wicketless in his last eight T20Is and has only bowled 3.1 overs in the tournament so far.

Afghanistan: 1 Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), 2 Usman Ghani, 3 Ibrahim Zadran, 4 Najibullah Zadran, 5 Gulbadin Naib, 6 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Azmatullah Omarzai, 9 Mujeeb Ur Rahman, 10 Fareed Ahmad, 11 Fazalhaq Farooqi

Pitch and conditions

Rain affected India’s clash with Bangladesh on Wednesday night but there is none forecast for Friday. It should be a pleasant 20-degree day but it may cool off in the evening. It will likely be a fresh pitch for the double-header, but New Zealand face Ireland beforehand so there potentially will be 40 overs of wear on it. However, as with most Adelaide strips, it should be a good batting surface.

Stats and trivia

  • These two teams have never met in T20I cricket and have only met three times in international cricket, with Australia winning all three matches in 2012, 2015 and 2019.
  • Rashid has taken 44 wickets in 29 T20 matches at Adelaide Oval. He has a better strike rate at the venue – 15.5 – compared to his career strike rate of 16.8, but a marginally higher economy rate.


“The reality is that our first game has put us in this situation. We knew for the rest of the tournament that it was going to come down to run rate should things go well. But also there are still two other games to be played in the pool. So first and foremost, we need to get the two points “
Australia captain Aaron Finch on Australia’s semi-final hopes

“It’s really not an easy game for us to play against Australia in Australian conditions, but we are here to give them a tough time. I think Australia will be under pressure because they want to win, and we are here to finish the tournament with high morale.”
Afghanistan assistant coach Rais Ahmadzai is hoping to cause an upset

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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