Afghanistan recover in World Cup opener against Australia

Bristol (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Afghanistan recovered from a disastrous start against defending champions Australia on Saturday to reach 37 for two after 10 overs in their World Cup opener in Bristol.

Gulbadin Naib, captain of the rank outsiders, took the bold decision to bat in warm conditions, hoping to post a defendable total his spin bowlers could exploit.

But the decision backfired badly, with both openers departing for ducks as Afghanistan slipped to five for two in the second over.

Mohammad Shahzad was bowled by Mitchell Starc in the opening over of the match and Hazratullah Zazai quickly followed, caught behind by wicket-keeper Alex Carey off Pat Cummins.

But Rahmat Shah led the fightback for Afghanistan, playing in only their second World Cup, to be unbeaten on 26 at the 10-over mark. Hashmatullah Shahidi was six not out.

Gulbadin explained he wanted to give his spinners a target to defend.

"It looks quite a good, flat wicket," he said at the toss.

"We have three spinners in the side and we want to put a score on the board for them. Morale is high and hopefully we can start well."

As expected, former Australia captain Steve Smith and opener David Warner were both included for their first full major international match since they completed year-long bans imposed after a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

Warner was passed fit to play after recovering from a sore glute.

Australia preferred Usman Khawaja to fellow batsman Shaun Marsh, with all-rounder Glenn Maxwell included in their XI.

"I'd have batted first too," said Australia captain Aaron Finch. "Hopefully we can find some movement early on and get wickets."