By Craig Kemp
Last Updated: 18th June 2019
Based solely on the pre-tournament prices, this should be the biggest mismatch of the entire Cricket World Cup.
England began the tournament on home soil as favourites to lift the trophy, with Afghanistan the longest odds to claim victory.
The latter part of this has played out as expected so far, with Afghanistan losing all four of their outings. Failing to score over 207 runs in any of these matches has proved a major thorn in their side.
It’s 9/1 in the match betting that Afghanistan beat the tournament hosts, with England 1/20 to triumph.
With neither of these prices on the attractive side, we’re better delving into the other markets for some value. Which ones largely hinge on whether England bat or bowl first.
If England bowl first
England face Afghanistan in Manchester and local weather reports are suggesting the rain may arrive from about 4pm onwards.
If this is accurate, that’s around 60 overs for England to get the match won. The result is that they’ll need to nab quick wickets with the ball, then chase down the run total in rapid fashion.
With Jason Roy definitely out and Eoin Morgan a doubt, the pressure will be on Jonny Bairstow to make a fast start with the bat, particularly with the likes of Joe Root, James Vince and Ben Stokes tending to score at a slower rate.
Bairstow is 5/2 to be top England batsman.
If England bat first
Despite the feeling before the tournament that this World Cup would be full of big scores, only three totals over 340 have been registered thus far.
England reached 386 against Bangladesh, with India making 352 against Australia and Pakistan scoring 348 against England.
The handicap line for England runs here is either side of 340.5 at 5/6 and the sensible play has to be to side with the unders.
This is not only due to the size of the scores already witnessed, but also because of England’s depleted batting line up and the turning nature of the Old Trafford pitch.
Without Roy and Morgan, England have lost two of their quickest scorers. Vince and Moeen Ali are likely to replace this pair, but typically score more modestly. Ali is out of form too.
Therefore, if one or both of Bairstow or Jos Buttler fail to catch fire, a score significantly over 300 is unlikely to materialise.
Furthermore, the match is to be played on the same Old Trafford track that saw India beat Pakistan. On that occasion, there seemed to be plenty of spin to interest the bowlers.
Bairstow has been susceptible against spin already in this tournament when getting a golden duck against South Africa.
Imran Tahir took his wicket that day and Afghanistan have their own dangerous leg-spinning opening bowler in Rashid Khan. What’s more, Khan knows Bairstow only too well from their time together with Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League.