Scotland and Afghanistan are both searching for their first win of the 2015 ICC World Cup and will do battle in Dunedin from 2200 GMT tonight.
Scotland’s previous matches have been against New Zealand and England and they failed with the bat in both innings; bowled out for 142 and 184 respectively. They should, however, have the crowd on their side. Edinburgh in Gaelic roughly translates as Dunedin and there has been a significant wave of immigration into the city from Scotland in the past. It gives the place a Scottish air and the city even has its own tartan.
The two sides are evenly matched on the field, with Afghanistan ranked slightly higher in the associate pecking order. Scotland captain Preston Mommsen, though, chose to focus on the last time the two sides met when the Afghans were bowled out for just 63 in the UAE.
"We take a huge amount of confidence from that game in Abu Dhabi, huge psychological advantage, I think," Mommsen said. "We had a clear, clear strategy and tactic against them, and I'm pretty sure that we'll resort to the same formula."
Afghanistan, meanwhile, will expect to win and usually receive support wherever they go. They are already deemed the second best associate behind Ireland and will want to live up that reputation. A strong showing against Sri Lanka followed their World Cup debut match against Bangladesh.
Strengths and weaknesses:
Scotland’s strength is their experience of conditions which should be similar to that found in the UK, and their professional set-up. They have Grant Bradburn as coach and former England captain Paul Collingwood as his assistant so their fielding should be a strong point.
The fifth bowling option was a noticeable weakness against England, with Richie Berrington, Matt Machan and Kyle Coetzer conceding 73 runs from 10 overs between them. The top-order has also failed in both games so far, with Calum MacLeod certainly due a score to justify the immense talent that was showcased at Durham in last season’s NatWest T20 Blast.
Afghanistan have the best pace attack in associate cricket, with Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Zadran strong enough to test most full members. All three have genuine pace, with Shapoor adding variety with his left-arm angle of attack. The spin bowling cupboard is also well-stocked. Samiullah Shenwari will bowl leg-spin and skipper Mohammad Nabi his off-breaks.
The main weakness is a tendency to implode with the bat, especially at the top of the order. Javed Ahmadi, Nawroz Mangal and Afsar Zazai are still waiting to make their first decisive contribution of the tournament, as is Najibullah Zadran further down the order.
Scotland have batsman Hamish Gardiner, all-rounder Michael Leask, and seam bowlers Rob Taylor and Safyaan Sharif as the players who didn’t feature in the match against England. Gardiner played against New Zealand and got a duck so is unlikely to force his way in again yet. Taylor also played against the co-hosts, but was left out for Alasdair Evans, who impressed against England. Leask could feasibly force his way in at the expense of Freddie Coleman if the Scots wanted to add another bowling option but an unchanged eleven seems most likely.
Probable XI: Kyle Coetzer, Calum MacLeod, Freddie Coleman, Matt Machan, Preston Mommsen (captain), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross (wicket-keeper), Josh Davey, Majid Haq, Alasdair Evans, Iain Wardlaw.
Afghanistan have been dealt a blow with the news that Mirwais Ashraf has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament after picking up an injury in the defeat to Sri Lanka. He has been replaced in the squad by wicket-keeper batsman Shafiqullah, who could yet displace Zazai in the eleven. Aftab Alam, though, is almost certain to take Ashraf’s place. The top-order remains an area of concern. Usman Ghani is a real option as a replacement for Ahmadi or Najibullah.
Possible XI: Javed Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shenwari, Mohammad Nabi (captain), Shafiqullah (wicket-keeper), Aftab Alam, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran.
A very cool start will give way to a relatively cool day, with temperatures peaking at around 17 degrees Celsius. However, the chance of rain is almost non-existent, while it should be mostly sunny. The pitch should again favour batsmen as many have so far this tournament. Swing is the most likely weapon for the bowlers, meaning that the toss could be important given the fragility of both sides’ top-orders.