BRISTOL, June 2 (IANS): A clinical display from the Australians, led by David Warner (89* off 114 balls), saw them thrash Afghanistan by seven wickets in their opening game of the 2019 World Cup at the County Ground on Saturday.
Chasing 208 for a win, Australia rode on half-centuries from skipper Aaron Finch and Warner as they emerged victorious with 91 balls to spare. The duo laid the foundation of the Australian chase with an opening stand of 96 runs in just 16 overs.
Finch was the more agressive of the two, smashing his way to 66 runs off 49 balls, hitting six boundaries and four sixes along the way. The usually destructive Warner played a more steady innings, batting till the end to take the Aussies home.
Earlier, opting to bat first, the Afghans rode some resilient batting, including a half-century by Najibullah Zadran to post 207 after they were struggling at 77/5 at one stage.
Afghanistan rode on Zadran's half-century and Rahmat Shah's 43 to set a 200-plus target for the defending champions as Pat Cummins (3/40) and Adam Zampa (3/60) rattled the Afghan batting line-up.
The war-torn nation got off to the worst possible start after opting to bat first, losing openers Mohammad Shahzad (0) and Hazratullah Zazai (0) with just five runs on the board before Shah came to his side's rescue. Shah stablised the innings with a valiant 51-run partnership with Hashmatullah Shahidi (18 off 34), taking Afghanistan past the 50-run mark.
Just when the duo looked like settling down, leg-spinner Zampa came up with the breakthrough, packing back Shahidi in the 14th over. Afghanistan then lost Shah and Mohammad Nabi (7) in quick succession with the scorecard reading 77/5 in 20.2 overs.
With the Afghan batting crumbling, Zadran and captain Gulbadin Naib (31) took the driver's seat, taking Afghanistan past the three-figure mark in the 26th over.
Marcus Stoinis finally broke the partnership by ending Naib's stay in the 34th over. Just four balls later, he dismissed Zadran (51; 49 balls, 4x7, 6x2) to put Afghanistan in deep trouble.
Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman then chipped in with 27 and 13 runs, respectively, to help Afghanistan post a fighting total of 207 before being bowled out in 38.2 overs.
Brief scores: Australia: 209/3 (David Warner 89 not out, Aaron Finch 66) beat Afghanistan: 207 all out in 38.2 overs (Najibullah Zadran 51, Rahmat Shah 43; Pat Cummins 3/40, Adam Zampa 3/60) by seven wickets.