Australia and Afghanistan are at least both certain of one thing: Saturday night won’t be a repeat of 2015.
Back then, when the two sides played in the 2015 World Cup Australia recorded the biggest win in World Cup history with a 275-run flogging in Perth.
David Warner was brutal, whacking 178 from 133 balls, while Glenn Maxwell 88 off just 39.
But four years on and it’s clear Afghanistan are now a different side who have the potential to spring upsets in this year’s tournament.
They possess three dangerous wicket-taking spinners in Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, while they last week beat Pakistan in a warm-up match.
“They’ve turned into a really world-class side at times,” Australia’s captain Aaron Finch said.
“They have got some of the best bowlers in the world and their batting is improving all the time. You can never take a side like that for granted.
“If you look back at 2015, we played them at The WACA which was probably the furthest from their home conditions you could possibly get.
“They are a dangerous side, very dangerous. We have seen around the world some of the performances their players are putting up in very strong domestic competitions.”
Afghanistan have, however, had their issues in the lead up to this year’s tournament.
In just April Asghar Afghan lost the captaincy of the team, sparking the likes of Khan and Nabi to question the decision on Twitter.
Coach Phil Simmons has since said he was not aware of why Afghan had been axed as skipper, while replacement Gulbadin Naib said he still felt as if his predecessor was in charge.
They at least received a boost on the eve of Saturday’s match, with dangerous wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad cleared of a hamstring injury to play.
And like Finch, Naib was confident the Bristol clash would be far different to the way things panned out at the WACA in 2015.
“The team has changed now, especially Afghanistan, so it’s not like in 2015 where we are,” Naib said.
“The last couple of years we improve very well in every department so, hopefully, it will be a good again tomorrow.
“Anything can happen. We are here and we play good cricket with them.”
Australian Associated Press