COACH Trevor Bayliss and captain Eoin Morgan must be relatively happy with where their side are after four games of the World Cup.
Granted, they’ve played some of the weaker sides in the competition (four of the bottom five in the points table), with even South Africa proving a fairly simple nut to crack.
Bar a disappointing defeat to Pakistan, where in truth, they didn’t do too much wrong, they’ve been impressive and have disposed of potential stumbling blocks like Bangladesh and West Indies with the minimum of fuss.
They were particularly dominant against the Windies, with the seam attack bowling with pace and aggression, while the batsman knocked off the modest target of 213 with consummate ease.
The total was reached in just 33.1 overs, as Joe Root continued his fine spell with another 100 and Bayliss and Morgan will be banking on the Yorkshireman continuing his form throughout the rest of the tournament.
It wasn’t all good news for England though, with both Jason Roy (torn hamstring) and Morgan (back spasms) coming off injured.
Morgan’s prognosis looks more hopeful, though Roy looks set for a longer spell on the sidelines with the opener ruled out of the next two matches.
Roy’s absence is a definite blow and his swashbuckling style at the top of the order will be missed, though with bigger fish to fry later, England will be grateful that it’s easier matches against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka that he’ll miss.
They take on an Afghan side today, who have lost all four of their matches so far.
The World Cup minnows looked massively out of their depth in the 2015 World Cup with just a solitary win against Scotland, but since then they have taken giant strides on the international stage and are now more than deserving of their full-member status.
They have recorded victories over Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and West Indies, so certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly, particularly with the plethora of dangerous spinners they have at their disposal.
Leg-spinner Rashid Khan has become a national superstar with his array of variations often unsettling the world’s best and he is well-supported by all-rounder Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman, both of whom have become regulars in the big competitions around the world.
Given this is the best side in the competition against the worst, it’s no surprise to see England are the overwhelming favourites.
Those wins over Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and West Indies, as well as their warm-up victory over Pakistan show the ability Afghanistan have, but it would take a seriously brave man to go against England here.
The tournament hosts should win this one comfortably, but there is little value in backing them at a general 1/20, so instead I’m going to take a chance on buying Jonny Bairstow’s performance with spread betting firm, Sporting Index.
England’s opener hasn’t really got going so far, with a first ball duck against South Africa followed by a slightly scratchy 32 against Pakistan.
He looked better for his 51 versus Bangladesh before getting out and it was the same story against West Indies for 45.
With his usual opening partner out, Bairstow will be keen to take his chance at the top of the order and get his side off to a flyer.
Given Afghanistan’s average seam attack, I fancy the 29-year-old for a big one and advise buying his runs at 65.
Buy Jonny Bairstow Performance 65 Sporting Index