3rd over: Afghanistan 9-0 (Hazratullah 9, Noor Ali 0) Hazratullah gets a couple to backward square leg, and then hoists one over midwicket, safely clear of the field but it gets nowhere near the boundary, pretty much stopping as soon as it lands.
2nd over: Afghanistan 4-0 (Hazratullah 4, Noor Ali 0) Hendricks bowls across Noor Ali Zadran, who looks unhappy about it. He waves his bat at the third, which just passes the edge, and thereafter attempts little but survival. Maiden.
1st over: Afghanistan 4-0 (Hazratullah 4, Noor Ali 0) The first ball is a ripper, and nearly saws Hazratullah in half. Rabada can’t keep that up, though – indeed he can’t keep himself up, slipping in the process of sending down his second delivery and calling for some extra sawdust – and after five dots Hazratullah clips a full toss away for four.
“Sound yellow! Yellow! Sound!” says the mysterious muffled Sky voice, as an ad break comes to an end.
Today’s teams in full:
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir.
Afghanistan: Hazratullah Zazai, Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Asghar Afghan, Ikram Alikhil (wk), Rashid Khan, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan.
Though I’m also quite impressed by anyone who can hold four or more cricket balls in one hand.
I still think the apples are one of the most impressive things about this World Cup.
Is anyone else getting funny muffled bonus voices on their Sky coverage? I certainly am, and I’m annoyed about it.
There’s plenty of green on the surface, and it’s really quite windy. Kagiso Rabada will be liking what he’s seeing, you’d have thought.
South Africa win the toss and will have a bowl
“Just the nature of the week. The pitch has been under covers,” says Faf du Plessis. The team is unchanged, so no Ngidi.
“There was a bit of space for us to make a mistake here or there before, but now our backs are against the wall,” says Faf du Plessis. That’s about the shape of it. South Africa sit ninth in the 10-team table ahead of this game, against the only side below them, after three defeats and a washout in their first four (Afghanistan have played one game fewer). Any more slip-ups would render their last four fixtures, for them at least, irrelevant.
“Week one was a bad start to the tournament but that’s done now,” Du Plessis continued. “We’ve got to put all our energy and focus into the now and what’s coming up next. I truly believe that if we carry those ghosts of the last week with us it’s going to be tough to get out of the hole. But the conversations in the last couple of days, especially with all the rain around, has given me more time to make sure that the guys are on the right path.”
Even in this bloated, extended opening group stage it has not taken long for us to get what is in effect the tournament’s first knockout game. Whoever loses this one is essentially doomed. South Africa’s efforts to turn their tournament around could be assisted by the return of Lungi Ngidi, who has missed their last two games, but then again it might not be. “It’s a tricky one with fast bowlers as to when they do come back,” says Faf. “We’re in a position now where we need to win five games out of five so you want your best available for selection. But if he’s not 100%, or even 90%, in a shortened game with a bit of rain around is it worth the risk?”
It looks like we should get a full day’s play in Cardiff, though some rain is forecast tonight. This could be considered the most important game of the World Cup so far. There should be fireworks. Welcome!