The domination of the big boys continues. Australia defeated Afghanistan almost as simply as New Zealand dispatched Sri Lanka earlier in the day in Cardiff. They won by seven wickets with 15.1 overs to spare and once again the pace bowlers prevailed.
Afghanistan fought more effectively than Sri Lanka or Pakistan at Trent Bridge, where they were thrashed by West Indies on Friday, but their total of 207 was never going to be enough to trouble Australia on a benign, evenly grassed surface. Even for the romantics in the crowd, 90% of whom were cheering every Afghanistan run, it was not enough.
Given the appalling nature of the start of the Afghanistan innings it was quite an achievement to pass 200. They have the most engaging of opening pairs. The tubby little wicketkeeper, Mohammad Shahzad, is a sweet timer of a ball, who is no more enthusiastic about the prospect of a quick single than Chris Gayle. His partner, Hazratullah Zazai, is a tall, muscular left-hander who can pepper the leg-side boundary on his day. But this was not his day. Nor was it Shahzad’s.
In the space of five deliveries they were dismissed for ducks, Shahzad bowled off his pads by Mitchell Starc, Hazratullah caught behind wafting at Patrick Cummins.
It was always going to be a struggle from five for two. Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi added a steady 51 whereupon Australia’s leg-spinner, Adam Zampa, intervened via a stumping and a good catch at short extra-cover by Steve Smith, whose deft fielding then caused the run-out of Mohammed Nabi.
By now Afghanistan had slumped to 77 for five and there seemed a good chance the floodlights would be redundant.