Kohli expecting his 'most challenging World Cup' yet

By Sports Desk May 21, 2019

India captain Virat Kohli believes the upcoming Cricket World Cup will be the most challenging he has played in.

The tournament in England starts next week, with India going into the event second in the ICC's one-day international rankings behind only the hosts.

In Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah they also have the world's number one batsman and bowler in the 50-over format, but for the skipper every game represents a significant obstacle due to the depth of quality in the competition.

And the fact all 10 teams will play each other once as the World Cup reverts to the same format it used back in 1992 has Kohli on guard.

"It is probably the most challenging World Cup of all the three that I have been part of because of the format and looking at the strength of the all the sides as well," Kohli said in Mumbai before his team travelled to England.

"If we live up to our skill sets and our standards that we set for ourselves, we'll be on the right side of the result more often. That is going to be key. Every game you have to play to the best of your potential because it's not a group stage anymore, it's playing everyone once.

"The best thing is that we'll have four tough games straight up and that will set the tone nicely for us. Everyone has to be at their best intensity from the first match onwards and we don't have any room for complacency.

"It's the World Cup, the most important tournament in the world. We expect that kind of pressure from the first second."

Kohli, 30, believes handling pressure will be a bigger challenge than tackling the conditions.

"White-ball cricket, playing in England, playing an ICC tournament, the conditions are not that different or that difficult I would say, compared to Test cricket," he said.

"Pressure is the most important thing in the World Cup and not necessarily the conditions. From that point of view, it will be helpful. 

"We go into the World Cup feeling very balanced and very strong as a side. You saw in the IPL as well, all the players that are in the squad were in great form and played really well.

"We expect high-scoring games, but a bilateral series compared to a World Cup is very different.

"You might see a lot of, I won't say low-scoring games, but 260-270 kind of games, teams getting those totals and defending it successfully because of the pressure factor. We expect all kinds of scenarios at the World Cup - there will be quite a few high-scoring games too."

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    Spinner Tahir claimed figures of 4-29 from his seven overs as the Proteas claimed their first win at this year's Cricket World Cup by resoundingly beating Afghanistan by nine wickets in Cardiff.

    The 40-year-old, who will step down from international cricket after the competition, tore through Afghanistan after the second rain delay, helping restrict them to 125 on a pitch that was not conducive to spin.

    "Tahir has probably single-handedly made us a very strong team for the last two years with his ability to get wickets at any stage, his control, so much variation," said Du Plessis after the match.

    "Even on a pitch like today when the boundaries are really small and the ball's not spinning much, somehow he still finds a way. That's the difference between the good ones and the great."

    The Proteas laboured in reaching a DLS-amended target of 127, with Quinton de Kock scoring 68 off 72 and the struggling Hashim Amla requiring 83 deliveries to make an unbeaten 41 in their 28.4 overs before getting over the line thanks to a huge Andile Phehlukwayo six.

    "Naturally, Quinton always plays quite freely but it was important for him to see off the new ball," said Du Plessis. "We needed a 60 or 70-run partnership and we could work on the run rate later.

    "It was important for Amla to get among the runs. The next four games, net run rate is not going to play a massive role if you win those games. We need Hashim to score runs for us, so I'm just happy for him to get a not out and get some runs on the board."

    Afghanistan replaced Najibullah Zadran, who posted scores of 51 and 43 in their opening two World Cup matches, with Asghar Afghan for the match at Sophia Gardens.

    Captain Gulbadin Naib lamented his team's failure to correct their errors from previous matches and suggested Najibullah could return to the line-up for Tuesday's meeting with England at Old Trafford after Afghan was out for a duck.

    "We need to play much better cricket. We did well in the opening overs but we repeated the same mistakes again," said Naib.

    "We have a lot of batsmen with Rashid Khan coming in at nine, but we need the lower-middle order to push the scoreboard.

    "Asghar is a senior player, that's why we gave him a chance. Najib is an outstanding batsman, we'll have him in the team in the upcoming matches."

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    Quinton de Kock scored 68 as South Africa eased to their first victory of the Cricket World Cup, hammering Afghanistan by nine wickets in Cardiff.

    Afghanistan's openers started well in Saturday's clash but, after the first of two rain delays, Hazratullah Zazai (22) tried to pull Kagiso Rabada (1-36) but only found a sliding Rassie van der Dussen at deep midwicket.

    Rain continued to interrupt Afghanistan's efforts to build momentum and when Imran Tahir (4-29) removed Noor Ali Zadran (32) and Asghar Afghan (0) in the same over their hopes of building a defendable total were slim.

    Andile Phehlukwayo (2-18) then bowled Mohammad Nabi (1) to leave Afghanistan's innings in tatters – having lost four wickets for a single run – and they were grateful for Rashid Khan's explosive 35 from 25 balls for leading them to a slightly more respectable score.

    South Africa were set a revised target of 127 and their victory was never in doubt despite veteran opener Hashim Amla continuing to look scratchy for his 41 not out off, scored off 83 balls.

    De Kock was more fluent, scoring at close to a run a ball until he fell to Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib (1-29), leaving Phehlukwayo – moved up the order to speed things along – to hit the winning runs with a thunderous six and give the Proteas renewed hope of qualification for the semi-finals.

     

    INTERRUPTIONS COSTLY FOR AFGHANISTAN

    Afghanistan's innings never got out of second gear but two spells of rain cost them any chance of settling against a much-improved Proteas attack.

    That opener Noor Ali took 58 balls to amass his 32 demonstrated Afghanistan's struggles to alleviate the pressure and they did not clear the ropes at all despite Khan's lively cameo seeing them to three figures.


    TAHIR COLLECTS CHEAP WICKETS

    The oldest player in the tournament, Tahir recorded mediocre figures in his previous appearances at this World Cup, but the 40-year-old found the drop in quality provided by struggling Afghanistan useful for his leg-breaks.

    A haul of four wickets doubles his tally at the 2019 tournament but, given the gulf in quality between the two sides, his typically exuberant celebrations, racing gleefully across the outfield, were perhaps needlessly over the top on this occasion.


    AMLA STILL SEEKING FORM

    Having scored only 25 runs across his three previous World Cup innings, Amla can be forgiven for taking his time at the crease in a chase that was at times painfully slow from South Africa.

    But, although Amla successfully carried his bat, there were few signs to suggest the 36-year-old is coming into any sort of form and the Proteas will need more from one of their leading lights.

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