England will need to be careful….potential banana skin….talented Afghanistan team…
Let’s be honest, anything other than a thumping England win will rank as a major surprise. Afghanistan’s World Cup experience has been a miserable one, riven by internal dissent and unable to compete adequately on the field. It doesn’t mean that their story over the last few years is any less extraordinary, but it does mean that in the here and now, the one nation the ICC could point to as representing growth in the game looks rather out of its depth, and pretending otherwise to try and kid prospective watchers that this is vital game would be dishonest. It’s not to say that it’s impossible for Afghanistan to win, or even for it to be a close match – sport can throw up the unexpected after all – but not impossible is a limited sell as an event.
However, only a few years ago, the Afghanistan national team were playing village cricket clubs in Sussex, and losing. That they are in a World Cup is something to celebrate, irrespective of how it’s gone for them so far.
For England, the loss of Jason Roy probably isn’t so important for the next couple of games, but the reported hamstring tear doesn’t sound too promising, despite England’s hopes that he’ll be back before too long. Naturally, this injury led to speculation about whether Alex Hales would be brought back if it proved to be serious, speculation that was fairly quickly damped down. There has to be some amusement here, England never seem to learn that making definitive statements to try to appear strong gives no wriggle room later on. It’s not that England were wrong about him, it’s not that England should have kept him in the squad then, or bring him back now. It’s that by using loaded phrases like “lack of trust” (again with the trust thing) and now “stigma” they give themselves nowhere to go.
This may be deliberate on the part of Morgan, to ensure there is no possibility of Hales coming back, but if so that would be a fairly unhealthy state of affairs in itself. There are different views concerning how Hales was treated, and how he behaved. He’s hardly the most sympathetic of characters given his recent conduct, and brought much of it on himself. But England’s continuing ability to end up selecting sides for reasons other than cricketing ability remains an irritation, as does the inconsistent application of the rules depending on whether a face fits properly. In each and every case a justification can be found either way, but there remains institutional favouritism within the ECB.
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