Imran Tahir has "single-handedly" made South Africa a strong team in the past two years, according to captain Faf du Plessis.

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."

The ICC will look into why Sri Lanka failed to fulfil post-match media duties after Saturday's Cricket World Cup loss to Australia.

Sri Lanka won the toss put Australia in to bat but Aaron Finch's explosive 153 fired his side to an imposing total of 334-7 at The Oval.

Mitchell Starc then took four wickets as Sri Lanka's initially strong start petered out into an 87-run loss that leaves them with a single victory from five matches.

And with their chances of qualification for the semi-finals now fading fast, Sri Lanka did not send any representatives to a post-match news conference.

An ICC spokesperson said the body will be "taking it up with them".

Sri Lanka are next in action against England at Headingley on Friday.

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.

West Indies A all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall is harbouring hopes of breaking into the regional side in the near future after being selected for an A team to face India A next month. 

Australia captain Aaron Finch claimed his side could have passed 350 in a win against Sri Lanka that moved them top of the Cricket World Cup's group-stage table.

Opener Finch blasted 153, the joint-highest score of the World Cup so far, as well as equalling his own ODI record tally, as Australia racked up 334-7 at The Oval on Saturday.

And with Mitchell Starc in fine form, taking 4-55 including removing dangerous opener Kusal Perera for 52, Australia had their fourth win from five games as Sri Lanka fell short by 87 runs.

A semi-final spot is now in sight for Australia, with Finch's side next in action against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

"It was nice to get a couple away early, it's key to my batting and if I'm getting drives away it's a good sign," said Finch after collecting his award for player of the match.

"It's a nice wicket, I've been working on getting my balance spot on from ball one. I've been out first ball a few times so it's key for me to do that.

"We lost some wickets when I was trying to take the game on, maybe a bit too much at times, but the first partnerships were key to getting our score.

"They bowled excellently, we could have got over 350, but they put the pressure on superbly at the end."

Steve Smith made 73 as the duo put on 173 for the third wicket to take the game away from Sri Lanka.

"He gets off strike so easily and scores boundaries so easily," Finch said of Smith. "He just hits the ball in the gap and it's a great skill early in the innings."

In response Sri Lanka were 115 without loss and seemingly on track to chase down a massive score but they were pegged back by Starc as well as Pat Cummins, who took 2-38, and Kane Richardson, whose 3-47 included the scalp of captain Dimuth Karunaratne.

"Finch and Smith batted well, but we came back strongly," said the Sri Lanka skipper, who made 97.

"We started well, but the middle order couldn't capitalise. They had to handle pressure and keep the momentum going.

"Starc and Cummins are world class, we knew what they could do, we had to keep a plan but we didn't.

"We lost couple of games to the rain, now we need to win a couple of games."

Sri Lanka's next game is against hosts England in Leeds on Friday.

Australia captain Aaron Finch smashed the joint-highest score of the 2019 Cricket World Cup before the competition's leading wicket-taker Mitchell Starc returned 4-55 in an 87-run victory over Sri Lanka at The Oval. 

Bangladesh fast bowling coach Courtney Walsh expects his team to come back strongly as they take on West Indies in their fifth game of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 in Taunton on Monday. 

Virat Kohli wants India to forget about the opposition and instead focus on their own game as they prepare to face rivals Pakistan on Sunday.

Old Trafford is the venue for the Cricket World Cup clash between the two neighbouring countries, though the much-anticipated fixture may be hampered by the Manchester rain.

Bad weather put paid to India's 100 per cent record at this year's tournament when their clash with New Zealand at Trent Bridge was washed out, though they remain in a good position in the race to reach the semi-finals.

Pakistan, by contrast, have managed one win in four outings, while they have never beaten India in six previous World Cup meetings.

Kohli knows an expectant audience, both inside the venue and back home in India, will be watching on, yet called for his players to keep their minds on the job at hand, rather than get carried away by the occasion.

"The fans' point of view is very different," said the India captain. "They should enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the occasion the way they want to and the way it's been enjoyed for years.

"But the players obviously have to maintain the mindset we have for years approaching any kind of game, whether it's India v Pakistan, India v Australia, India v England or South Africa, whoever it is.

"Our mindset remains the same, just to go out there and be professional about our cricket and execute what we're expected to execute, because for us this is a responsibility and people expect us to play a certain way, and that's our focus."

India fielded the same XI in impressive victories over South Africa and Australia but will have to make at least one change this weekend.

Shikhar Dhawan suffered a hairline fracture of his left thumb while making a superb century against Australia at The Oval, meaning KL Rahul is likely to be promoted to open the innings alongside Rohit Sharma.

However, Kohli admitted the conditions – showers are forecast during the day, raising the possibility of a shortened match – could lead to further alterations, potentially with the addition of an extra seamer to the bowling attack.

"We have to be flexible," said the batsman.

"We can't be rigid in our approach because if the conditions are very different from what we played in the last game, then we'll have to think of different combinations, which areas to strengthen when it comes to the bowling attack.

"If pace becomes a more important option, then we'll look to explore that. If not, if the length of the game is going to be full and we expect the game to be 50 overs both sides, then we'll probably think of another combination, but we'll have to be flexible.

"We'll have to see how today pans out, how tomorrow the conditions are.

"I think all players are in a zone to be ready to play, so that helps in selecting the combination that you need to, depending on what conditions you're going to face."

Coach Mickey Arthur has told Pakistan to rattle India's top order when the fierce rivals meet at the Cricket World Cup on Sunday.

India are unbeaten at this year's tournament after three fixtures and have never lost a World Cup game to Pakistan, although they were beaten heavily by their neighbours in the 2017 Champions Trophy final in London.

Showers are expected in Manchester with the weather set to have an impact again, India's last match against New Zealand having been rained off.

Pakistan, with one win from their four games, desperately need a victory to boost their qualification chances and Arthur is demanding an aggressive approach in one of sport's biggest fixtures.

"Without wanting to harp too much, that [the Champions Trophy final] was two years ago, but when you get into the Indian top order, you can create a little bit of havoc," he told a news conference.

"There's some fun players all the way down, don't get me wrong, but if you can rattle their top order with the new ball, you certainly have an advantage. That's something that we'll certainly, certainly be trying to work on.

"I'm telling our players in the dressing room, you could be a hero. Your careers are going to be defined by a moment in the game. You do something incredible [against India], you'll be remembered forever.

"Our mantra is how do you want to be remembered? We've got 15 incredible cricketers in that dressing room, and we keep stressing to them, how do you want to be remembered? You're the class of 2019. What are they going to say about you in history?

"And this presents an unbelievable opportunity for these guys to really make a mark."

Shoaib Malik is yet to make an impact in the tournament, scoring only eight runs in his two innings, but Arthur backed the 37-year-old to fire against India.

"I can tell you a guy that's played over 200 ODIs, tomorrow presents a real opportunity for him," Arthur added.

"Shoaib Malik didn't play [against] the West Indies team because of the balance of the team. He batted in the last three overs against England and failed against Australia.

"So to say he's failed, there's not much of a barometer just yet. That will be determined over the next couple of games. What I do know is Shoaib Malik brings a hell of a lot to our dressing room.

"He is an incredible team man. He has incredible skills, and I'm hoping that, on the biggest stage tomorrow, those skills come to the fore.

"Let's not forget - I mentioned it in one of the previous questions - that it's still a fairly young cricket team. Shoaib Malik's experience, Mohammad Hafeez's experience will go a long way out in the middle to help these young boys through it."

India can take a significant step towards the semi-finals by beating fierce rivals Pakistan at the Cricket World Cup on Sunday.

Virat Kohli's side have looked among the strongest in the tournament to date, while Pakistan have improved after a horror show in their opening seven-wicket loss to West Indies.

India and Pakistan have the biggest rivalry in the sport and both teams will be hoping the weather holds out so a full match can be played in front of a packed crowd in Manchester.

Light showers are forecast for a venue where India beat their neighbours by 47 runs in the 1999 World Cup, although it was Pakistan who would go on to reach the final that year before being outplayed by Australia.

Shikhar Dhawan will not be fit for India as he continues to recover from a hand injury, but Rishabh Pant has trained with the team after being flown in to join the squad.

In seeking a first World Cup win in this fixture, Pakistan could be inspired by their performance in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, where they thumped India by 180 runs at The Oval thanks in part to Fakhar Zaman's century.

But it could be the Manchester weather that holds the key to the game, with rain likely to interrupt and perhaps play a major part in the result.

TOURNAMENT SO FAR

India have looked strong, justifying their status among the favourites with wins over South Africa and Australia followed by a washout against New Zealand. Rohit Sharma has been in fine form with the bat, his 179 runs putting him among the top scorers at the tournament, while he has passed 50 in each of his last four ODI appearances.

But Pakistan could be facing an early exit as they have only won one of their four matches so far, beating England in a thriller after being rolled over by West Indies, then seeing a fixture with Sri Lanka rained off. No bowler at the World Cup has more than Mohammad Amir's 10 wickets, but he has failed to claim a single victim in four of six previous ODI appearances against India.

WHAT THEY SAID

India captain Kohli: "If we play well, we can beat anyone. Nothing changes according to the opposition. For the players, it is very important to be professional, be it any team you are up against."

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur: "Obviously, there's a massive hype that's created a lot of the time by the media really. Our guys are prepared. We're ready. We're comfortable that we can get out there and perform, and we are so excited about the opportunity tomorrow."

OPTA FACTS

- India have won all six of their previous Cricket World Cup matches against Pakistan, five of those victories coming having defended a first-innings total.

- Since beating Pakistan at Old Trafford in the 1999 World Cup, India have played just one ODI at the venue in Manchester, losing by three wickets there to England in 2007.

- Kohli is 57 runs away from becoming the ninth player to score 11,000 ODI runs. Sachin Tendulkar currently holds the record for the quickest to reach the milestone at 276 innings; Kohli has played just 221 innings so far.

Australia captain Aaron Finch smashed 153 against Sri Lanka at The Oval to record the joint-highest score of the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

Finch, who has also made the most runs in this tournament having accrued 343 in five innings, blasted five sixes and another 15 fours in a 132-ball knock as Australia piled on the runs.

The opener was eventually dismissed when he skied a slower ball from Isuru Udana straight into the air to give Dimuth Karunaratne a simple catch at cover.

That total meant the Australian emulated England opener Jason Roy's World Cup knock against Bangladesh one week ago, while Finch also equalled his own best ODI score having made an unbeaten 153 against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in March.

Finch had put on 80 with David Warner (26) in their opening stand before he combined in a third-wicket partnership worth 173 alongside Steve Smith (73), with Australia moving beyond 300 in the 45th over.

West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite has been found guilty of breaching the International Cricket Council's code of conduct after showing dissent in Friday's defeat to England.

The all-rounder was given out caught behind off the bowling of Jofra Archer in the 44th over of West Indies' innings during the Cricket World Cup fixture in Southampton.

Brathwaite was clearly disappointed to be dismissed for 14 as his side were bowled out for 212, a total England easily overhauled with eight wickets and 101 deliveries to spare.

As well as an official reprimand, the 30-year-old received one demerit point for a level one breach. He accepted the sanction handed down by match referee David Boon, meaning a formal hearing was not required.

Players face suspension if they receive four or more demerit points within a two-year period.

West Indies are next in action in the tournament on Monday, as they take on Bangladesh at Taunton.

Sri Lanka will hope to finally take the field for a third time at the Cricket World Cup, needing to spring a surprise against holders Australia to bolster their chances of progressing to the semi-finals.

Dimuth Karunaratne's men have completed just two of their four scheduled matches, having to settle for a share of the spoils after games with Pakistan and Bangladesh were abandoned without a ball bowled due to rain.

Robbed of those opportunities to gain momentum, they now face the daunting task of taking on Australia, who have garnered six points from their first four contests.

A Sri Lanka win at The Oval would move them level with the defending champions but the omens are not good. Sri Lanka have won just two of the nine World Cup matches between the sides.

Australia also won the last ODI series these teams contested, claiming a 4-1 triumph in Sri Lanka back in 2016.

Marcus Stoinis will again be missing from the Australia attack with a side strain, while Sri Lanka fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep has recovered from a dislocated and cut finger on his bowling hand.

Pradeep took 4-31 in Sri Lanka's sole win over Afghanistan and they will hope for a similar impact at The Oval, where Australia have lost their past four completed ODIs – including against India last Sunday.

TOURNAMENT SO FAR

After bouncing back from a 10-wicket defeat to New Zealand in their opener with a 34-run victory over Afghanistan, Sri Lanka have seen their top-four hopes dented by the weather.

Australia started by easing past Afghanistan and holding on for a 15-run win over West Indies. They were comfortably second best in a 36-run loss to India and were not overly convincing as they got back to winning ways against Pakistan at Taunton.

WHAT THEY SAID

Sri Lanka captain Karunaratne: "Australia have a really good bowling line-up and top order with bat in hand. We need to take early wickets and have to get through the early overs with the bat, that will be the crucial part."

Australia skipper Aaron Finch: "I don't think we've gone anywhere near our best, which is still a good thing; that we've got six points on the board while not playing anywhere near our best cricket."

OPTA FACTS

- Finch and David Warner have put on 2,444 ODI runs together as a partnership (52 innings, averaging 47). They compiled 146 runs together against Pakistan last time out, a sixth century partnership for the duo in ODIs.

- Lasith Malinga needs four more wickets to become the fourth bowler to reach 50 scalps in World Cups, after Glenn McGrath (71), Muttiah Muralitharan (68) and Wasim Akram (55).

- A five wicket-haul for Mitchell Starc (31 wickets) would see him leapfrog Shane Warne (32), Shaun Tait (34), Brad Hogg (34) and Brett Lee (35) as Australia's second highest wicket taker in World Cup history, behind only McGrath (71).

It was supposed to be the tournament for the entertainers to deliver a summer of sizzling sixes. Instead, it continues to be the quiet man from Sheffield who plots the way for England's potential success at the Cricket World Cup.

Joe Root added another century – this one unbeaten – to take his tally to 279 runs and make himself the leading scorer in the competition on his own terms. 

Finessed strokes, dancing feet, precision play. In a team filled with bravado with the bat, it is a hark back to yesteryear that saw him become the first English player to hit three hundreds in World Cups.

"He is the glue that holds everything together," said captain Eoin Morgan after the eight-wicket triumph over West Indies at the Rose Bowl on Friday, an impressive chase of 213 completed with almost 17 overs remaining.

"He never seems to go at less than a run a ball. You look up, he is going at more than a run a ball and it is exceptional to watch, so to see him come out and be in this form is brilliant."

This is not just an individual endeavour, though; a third hundred partnership so far in the tournament delivered alongside emergency number three Chris Woakes, after an earlier 95-stand with Jonny Bairstow – having been forced to open the batting following Jason Roy's unfortunate injury.

West Indies bore the brunt on this occasion, as they've done on multiple occasions before. Root has four centuries against them in ODIs - no other England batsman has more than two.

"He's a quality player," reflected West Indies captain Jason Holder. "He got off to a really good start, kept up with the momentum and played really well. Credit must be given to him."

And Root continues to shine, when needed to, with the ball as well. 

A pitch that surprised Morgan with the amount of spin on show saw him turn to Root's part-time off-breaks and the skipper was rewarded with two wickets, including the break-up of a major partnership.

"Typically he's got a golden arm and does take wickets, which is great," Morgan reflected with a smile that hid the pain of a back spasm that also forced him from the field.

"I kept speaking to Jos [Buttler] because I can't get an indication unless the ball beats the bat as to how much it's turning, but Jos kept saying, 'It is turning more than we think here, it might be worth a go.'

"So we spoke about it for a couple of overs and went with it for one, possibly two [overs], but he started brilliantly."

After a week of rain interruptions, the Cricket World Cup needed one of its shining lights to break through the gloom. And as the sun began to beat down on Hampshire, Root continued to leave his nation dreaming of maiden glory.

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