PREVIEW: Scotland (6/5) take on Afghanistan (4/6) on Thursday at the University Oval in windswept Dunedin.
Often these games are incredibly hard to call. When the affiliate nations play each other it can be considered a potential wooden spoon decider, however for the teams it can also be viewed as their World Cup Final.
Afghanistan have beaten Scotland five times in the eight encounters between the two teams. But, when the teams last met, in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, Afghanistan was shot out for only 63, chasing 214 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
The Scots have made much of their better preparation for their third World Cup, however that has not been apparent in their opening two games. They were outplayed by England and the closeness of the result against New Zealand was exaggerated by the Kiwis desire to chase the required runs quickly to boost their net run-rate.
The Scots seam attack is decent enough, although it hasn’t quite fired yet. Off-spinner Majid Khan is capable, but hasn’t been put under the pump as yet, and the batting is balanced, the fielding right on the money.
Afghanistan have rapidly risen through the world ranks because they attack, play to win and go for it. There are some very talented cricketers in their ranks.
When the draw for the tournament was made, both teams will have earmarked this one as their genuine chance to take two points home.
Afghanistan are ranked higher by the ICC, but neither side will fear their opponents. For that reason expect a fierce battle.
Josh Davey took 6 for 28 when the two sides met in the UAE. He is 11/4 to be the best Scottish bowler and a decent shot at 12/1 to be Player of the Match. If the Afghans decide to see him off, Iain Wardlaw could be an alternative play at the same odds.
With the bat, the headline offer from William Hills of 7/1 for Kyle Coetzer to top score in a Scotland win is tempting.
For Afghanistan, we like Mohammad Nabi at 5/1 to top score at number six for the team he skippers and their front-line seamer Hamid Hassan to be the best Afghan with the ball at 11/4.
As with many pressured games there is a high likelihood of run outs. Over 1.5 run outs is a bet we really like at 7/4.
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Scotland: Kyle Coetzer, Calum McLeod, Freddie Coleman, Matt Machan, Preston Mommsen (capt), Richie Berrington, Mathew Cross (wk), Josh Davey, Alasdair Evans, Majid Haq, Iain Wardlaw.
Afghanistan: Javed Ahmadi, Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi (capt), Najibullah Zadran, Afsar Zazai (wk), Aftab Alam, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran.
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James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
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