ICC Cricket World Cup: Afghanistan vs Scotland - Preview

Scotland and Afghanistan are each targeting a first-ever Cricket World Cup victory when they meet in Dunedin on Thursday.

AFP| Last Updated: Feb 25, 2015, 21:46 PM IST
ICC Cricket World Cup: Afghanistan vs Scotland - Preview

Sydney: Scotland and Afghanistan are each targeting a first-ever Cricket World Cup victory when they meet in Dunedin on Thursday.

Both of the minnow nations have given more fancied opposition a scare at this year`s tournament but are yet to win a match.

Afghanistan looked a realistic prospect of upsetting Sri Lanka last weekend when they reduced the former world champions to 51-4 before a Mahela Jayawardene century consigned them to a four-wicket defeat.

Scotland gave co-hosts New Zealand some nervous moments when they took seven wickets as the Black Caps, one of the tournament favourites, chased a paltry 143-run target.

Both of the non-Test playing "associate" nations have now lost two from two in their Pool A matches and have virtually no chance of reaching the quarter-finals, making a maiden victory their major goal for the tournament.

The Scots, who have appeared at two previous World Cups but are still yet to win a match, followed up their stirring display against New Zealand with a lacklustre 119-run loss to England.

But captain Preston Mommsen said his team were not disheartened and were putting in the "hard graft" needed to prepare for the Afghanistan match.

"It`s a critical game for us," he said. "Having played them quite a bit in recent times, it`s important that we put in a big performance."

Scotland and Afghanistan have played each other eight times in one-day internationals, with the Scots on the wrong end of a 5-3 losing record.

But they inflicted a heavy 150-run defeat on their opponents last time they met in Dubai last month, when Afghanistan were bowled out for 63 as medium pacer Josh Davey ran riot and ended with figures of six for 28.

"We know what we have to do to overcome them," said Scotland assistant coach Paul Collingwood, the gritty former England batsman.

Collingwood said that elusive first victory was a major motivating factor for his side.

"We`re not just here to enjoy the World Cup, we`re here to win games and we`ll keep battling and trying to play the positive cricket we know can hopefully bring us a win."

Afghanistan`s attack will be led by Hamid Hassan, who is shaping up as the cult hero of this year`s tournament, with his red bandanna and face paint in the national colours.

He is Afghanistan`s leading wicket taker at the tournament with five dismissals, including Sri Lanka`s Kumar Sangakkara, which he celebrated with an unsteady cartwheel down the pitch.

Hassan once described Afghanistan, who are making their tournament debut, as the "Rambo" of the cricket world and admits his look is based on the movie`s star Sylvester Stallone.

"I think that there is a similarity in the story of Rocky and the Afghanistan cricket team -- we both started at the bottom and gradually made our way up the rankings," he said.

Many of Afghanistan`s players learned their cricket in refugee camps after fleeing their war-torn nation and a win in their first World Cup appearance would be a major achievement.