Home-bound England fear one last shock
March 13, 2015, Sydney
Start time 14:30 local (03:30 GMT)
In some ways a meaningless match, in others quite the opposite. England and Afghanistan are both guaranteed to be going home regardless of what transpires at the SCG, but there are plenty of points of interest for observers both partisan and neutral.
Having been dumped from the World Cup by Bangladesh, England will be petrified of finishing their tournament with another loss to the kind of team the ECB have given short shrift to by way of fixtures and ICC-level decisions in recent times. Jobs are at risk now for players and coaches - this may be Eoin Morgan's last match in charge of the team while Peter Moores cannot feel that much more secure himself. The level of analysis applied to England's limited-overs fortunes over the past few days will have an interesting counterpoint at the SCG, as the players ponder whether to change their ways or try to carry on in the old style.
For Afghanistan the fixture provides one last chance to appear in the game's shop window, against opponents they have never played in ODIs and on a ground they are visiting for the very first time. Their coach Andy Moles has suggested that over the next four years Afghanistan aspire to be the preferred warm-up opponents for teams visiting the UAE and other nearby countries. A victory or even a close result against England would underline the validity of his point, and perhaps also cause other countries to ponder even greater opportunities for this team that has grown so much in so little time.
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Having languished without an opportunity until the last possible moment against Bangladesh, Alex Hales will get a chance to bat in his preferred position as opener in what is now a meaningless fixture for England. But it will not be meaningless for Hales, one of numerous members of a chastened England squad seeking to shore up their place in the plans of whoever turns out to be captain and coach of the team once the dust settles from their elimination.
Having bowled beautifully against Sri Lanka and similarly well in the win over Scotland, Afghanistan's spearhead Hamid Hassan will be looking forward to charging in at a few timid English batsmen. The SCG pitch appears better grassed than the strip that hosted Australia on Sunday, affording Afghanistan's bowlers the hope of some lateral movement in their final outing for the tournament.
Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali leave gaps in the team that will likely be filled by Ravi Bopara and James Tredwell, while Alex Hales is set to open after batting at No. 3 against Bangladesh. Jos Buttler may find himself up the order, and Steven Finn also has some chance of inclusion ahead of Stuart Broad or James Anderson.
England 1 Ian Bell, 2 Alex Hales, 3 James Taylor, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Ravi Bopara, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Tredwell, 11 James Anderson
Afghanistan's team should change little, their faith placed in the pace bowlers who have acquitted themselves well thus far.
Afghanistan 1 Javed Ahmadi, 2 Nawroz Mangal, 3 Asghar Stanikzai, 4 Samiullah Shenwari, 5 Mohammad Nabi (capt), 6 Najibullah Zadran, 7 Afsar Zazai (wk), 8 Gulbadin Naib, 9 Dawlat Zadran, 10 Hamid Hassan, 11 Shapoor Zadran
Pitch and conditions
The SCG pitch is to the left of the pitch square towards the Bill O'Reilly stand side, and looks somewhat grassier than that prepared for Australia and Sri Lanka. The weather forecast is for some showers across the afternoon and evening.
Stats and trivia
This is Afghanistan's first meeting with England in an ODI match, having played one Twenty20 fixture against them at the World T20 last year
It is also Afghanistan's first ever match at the SCG
England have never won fewer than two matches at a World Cup
"If losing the game to Bangladesh was terrible we couldn't possibly imagine what it will be like if tomorrow goes against us. That would be horrendous."
England assistant coach Paul Farbrace
"We came here expecting to surprise somebody. We nearly got it right with Sri Lanka, and if we can be consistent and do the things well at the right times, I still believe that we have a shot in us. But we'll have to be at our very best and we'll need England to be below par."
Afghanistan coach Andy Moles