NEW DELHI: England’s Ben Stokes (R) stretches during a training session at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday.—AFP
NEW DELHI: England’s Ben Stokes (R) stretches during a training session at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday.—AFP

NEW DELHI: Afghan­istan may be bottom of the World Cup standings after losing their first two games, but the Asian side have the ability to upset defending champions England in their group fixture on Sunday, their English coach Jonathan Trott said.

Afghanistan lost their tournament opener to Bangladesh in a low-scoring encounter before hosts India registered a comfortable eight-wicket victory.

Afghanistan have lost 16 of their 17 World Cup matches but Trott said there is a “a lot of fight in the dressing room” as they look to find consistency with both the bat and ball.

“I think this side’s got the ability to upset any side. We’ve been so close in previous matches, it’s just about getting over the line and making sure that we do,” Trott told reporters.

“We’ll have an opportunity tomorrow to put pressure on England and we’ve got to make sure we do that.”

England thrashed Afghanistan by 150 runs at the last World Cup but Trott said the gulf in quality between the two sides has significantly reduced.

“England are probably in a very similar place to where they were then and we’ve got a bit better as well,” he added.

“That’s why I’m very optimistic with tomorrow’s game.”

Afghanistan will hope Ben Stokes, who smashed a record-breaking 182 in his last One-day Intern­ational, remains sidelined as he recovers from a hip injury which kept him out of England’s first two games.

“Ben seems to be getting better day on day. He trained really well last night, obviously had a long bat, did his running, seems to be improving, so all good signs ahead of tomorrow,” England batter Joe Root said.

“But he’s got to be fit to play and we’ll see whether that’s the case for tomorrow, whether it’s the next game or further down the line.”

England lost their opener to New Zealand but bounced back with a win over Bangladesh to sit fifth in the table. Only the top four advance to the semi-finals.

“I think we weren’t where we wanted to be in the first game. We were considerably better in the last game against Bangladesh,” Root added.

“This is another opportunity for us to take another stride forward and keep building that momentum and that progression towards the business end of this tournament and making sure that we are where we need to be by the back end of it.”

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2023

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