Afghanistan distinguished themselves in their fighting loss to India. Can they do the same against England in Colombo? And how will Bangladesh fare against New Zealand? Richard O'Hagan looks ahead to the Friday action.
"Afghanistan came so close against India. Their bowlers showed some real fight and even nipped out the vaunted Indian openers cheaply. What cost them dear was the regularity with which they lost wickets."
England v Afghanistan
Sky Sports 1
England start their defence of their title with what they probably thought was going to be a leisurely stroll against a raw Afghan side. Michael Lumb looks likely to be the loser in the three way fight for the opening slot, with Alex Hales partnering Craig Kieswetter. Lower down the order there probably won't be a slot for Jonny Bairstow, either, whilst Luke Wright ahould beat out Ravi Bopara for the number three position.
Afghanistan came so close against India. Their bowlers showed some real fight and even nipped out the vaunted Indian openers cheaply. What cost them dear was the regularity with which they lost wickets, leaving their lower order too much to do. Mohammed Nabi came of age as a batsman in that game, making 31 from just 17 balls. The Afghan batting order is a fluid one, so expect to see him come in higher up the order in this game.
England are, as you might expect, currently [1.05] to Afghanistan's [18.0]. Whilst that is a significant shortening in the Afghan odds compared to their opening price against India (with no real difference in their opposition's price) it highlights that there is little value in the market for some of these opening group games.
As with all games against the less experienced sides, it is safest not to look beyond the opening batsmen in this market. Alex Hales has been a fairly reliable opener for England since his recall to the side and looks well priced at [4.5].
Aside from Nabi, both Mohammad Shahzad and captain Nawroz Mangal showed some form against India. Shahzad looked jittery, though, whereas Mangal played a composed innings of 22 which included one very classy cover drive. At odds of [4.5] he looks to be the safer bet here.
Bangladesh v New Zealand
Sky Sports 1
Bangladesh have had a slightly rough time of it in the warm-ups, including a loss to Ireland. At times it has looked like all elements of their game have regressed, with their fielding in that game particularly shoddy. However, they have always been a side for rising to a big occasion and will want to get off to a flying start against a New Zealand side who look increasinly vulnerable on the world stage. Their side is packed full of experience and in Mushfiqur Rahim they have a pugnacious captain who never seems to know when to quit.
New Zealand had the worst possible start to their campaign when all-rounder Rob Nicol and opening bowler Tim Southee were ruled out of this game with gastric infections. Their strength in depth is not so great that they can really afford to lose either man, but if the likes of captain Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum all perform they should still be too strong for Bangladesh.
Opener Tamim Iqbal was the one batsman to really show some form in the warm up games and is long overdue a big score in an important game. He had a chastening experience in the IPL earlier this year, not playing a game, but claims to have learned much from the experience of training alongside some of the world's best Twenty20 players. Back him to make that big score here against a depleted New Zealand attack, at odds of [4.0]
With Nicol out, New Zealand are likely to revert to their one day opening partnership of Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill. No-one has made more runs in this form of cricket this year than Guptill, and he is a today's Recommended Bet at a price of [4.5].
T20 Special Cashback Offer!
Betting on the match? Make sure you check out our great cashback offer - refund on Top Batsman Fixed Odds bets of up to £50 if the first wicket is an LBW!