|Afghanistan||$8.50 at Sportsbet|
|Australia||$1.10 at Bet365|
An awful lot has happened since Australia claimed their fifth ICC Cricket World Cup title four years ago.
Michael Clarke retired and vacated the ODI captaincy after the 2015 final at the MCG, which set in motion a series of events that would lead Australian cricket to a state of near-ruin not seen since the 1980s.
But Steven Smith and David Warner have served their time, and both are hell-bent on winning back the cricket world’s favour this summer.
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While Smith sent a warning shot to the rest of the competition with a superb century in the warm-up game against England, Warner is not quite a sure thing to pad up in Saturday’s clash at Bristol County Ground.
With Aaron Finch as captain and Usman Khawaja piling on ODI runs over the last few months, there is limited real estate at the top of the Aussie batting order.
It could be that either Shaun Marsh or Glenn Maxwell is sacrificed, but the latter’s part-time spin bowling is shaping as a valuable commodity at this World Cup.
The other question is whether Nathan Lyon or Adam Zampa starts as the chief tweaker alongside Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, et al.
Spin is the key for Afghanistan as they look to show the world they are not just making up the numbers in England and Wales.
Australian audiences should be familiar with Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, both so impressive in the last T20 Big Bash League campaign.
Mohammad Nabi is another who has established himself as a genuine star of limited-overs cricket in the past few years.
The Afghans made their intentions known when they beat Pakistan in the warm-up matches, so the Aussies had better be ready for a fight.
Steve Smith World Cup betting specials
|Man of the match||$11||$6.50||$10|
|Top Australia batsman||$7||$3.75||$5|
|To score 50||$2.38||$2||–|
After a year out of international cricket, Steve Smith looks raring and ready to go.
The former Aussie skipper showed fine form in the warm-up fixtures, following up his 76 against the West Indies with 113 in a win over England.
He didn’t bat against Sri Lanka, but he did snag a wicket with his part-time leggies – the sign of a player in excellent touch all-round.
Afghanistan vs Australia top wicket-taker tips
Rashid Khan – $2.20 at Bet365
This guys absolutely loves bowling to left-handed batsmen, and the Aussies are not short on those. Rashid’s control and variation is second to none and his googly is the best in the game.
Pat Cummins – $4.50 at Bet365
With Josh Hazlewood out of the squad, Cummins takes on a more senior role within the pace attack. He is Australia’s most reliable quick and a genuine wicket-taker in all formats.
Afghanistan vs Australia CWC match predictions
The ICC’s decision to invite only 10 teams to this year’s Cricket World Cup leaves Afghanistan as the rank outsiders in the field.
That tag does no justice to a nation that boasts some of the most exciting young talent in the game, but this team has a long way to go before it can compete man-for-man with the big boys.
Not only are Australia the defending champions, they are also determined to hit back at everyone who has stuck the boot in since last year’s ball-tampering scandal.
Aaron Finch’s men have shown ominous signs in the lead-up schedule and will open their campaign with a big win in Bristol.
Australia win/most sixes – $2 at Sportsbet