Warner, Maxwell power Australia to record win

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David Warner's career-best 178 and Glenn Maxwell's 88-run blitz powered Australia to a record World Cup total of 417 for six wickets in a Pool A match against lowly Afghanistan at Perth on Wednesday.

Warner forged a 260-run partnership with Steve Smith (95) for the second wicket, an Australian record, and Maxwell dazzled in his 39-ball cameo in an amazing display of batting pyrotechnics by the tournament co-hosts.

Warner hit five sixes and 19 fours in his belligerent knock before being dismissed in the 38th over, failing to better Shane Watson's 185 not out against Bangladesh (2011), which remained the highest ODI score by an Australian.

It was some consolation for Watson who was replaced by James Faulkner for Wednesday's match in which his 252-run stand with Ricky Ponting was also bettered by the Warner-Smith duo.

Encouraged by the moisture on the pitch, Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi decided to field first, a decision that delighted his counterpart Michael Clarke who said they also wanted to bat first at the WACA.

Pitted against the most successful team in World Cup history, tournament debutants Afghanistan tasted early success when Dawlat Zadran induced an outside edge to dismiss Aaron Finch (four) in the third over.

Both Dawlat and Shapoor Zadran began rather tightly but whenever the Afghans got carried away by the WACA bounce and bowled short despite lacking the pace to make the ploy work, Warner swivelled and pulled them ferociously.

The belligerent southpaw hit Hamid Hassan, wearing a headband and with war paint on his face, for three boundaries in the 10th over to race to his 50 in 40 balls.

Warner broke loose after registering his fourth ODI century in 92 balls and hit Dawlat for back-to-back sixes, a treatment he would hand out to Shapoor as well, as his next 50 came off 24 balls.

Smith also helped himself to his first fifty of the tournament but hardly anyone noticed, such was Warner's domination at the other end.

Even after the 28-year-old southpaw's exit, there was no respite for the Afghans as Maxwell unfurled his wide range of shots, cheeky as well as conventional slogging, to hit seven sixes and six boundaries in his sparkling knock.

This was the third 400-plus total in this year's World Cup - South Africa posted the first two - and also the highest in tournament history bettering India's 413-5 against Bermuda in the 2007 edition.

Toss

Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi won the toss and decided to bowl in the World Cup Pool B game against Australia at the WACA Ground on Wednesday.

Australia made two changes for the match, with all-rounder Shane Watson left out, along with paceman Pat Cummins.

All-rounder James Faulkner was recalled after injury, with Josh Hazlewood also back into the team.

Afghanistan promoted opener Usman Ghani at the expense of Gulbadin Naib.

Teams

Australia:
Michael Clarke (capt), Aaron Finch, David Warner, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.

Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (capt), Javed Ahmadi, Usman Ghani, Nawroz Mangal, Asghar Stanikzai, Samiullah Shinwari, Najib Zadran, Afsar Kkhan Zazai, Dawlat Zadran, Hamid Hassan, Shahpur Zadran.

Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI) and Michael Gough (ENG)
Tv umpire: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)
Match referee:  Nigel Llong (ENG)
Weather: Sunny, 32 degrees

Preview

Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi has insisted his side are "not scared" of Australia heading into Wednesday's World Cup clash in Perth.

"We are not scared of them, but we respect them because they have good attacking bowlers and qood quality batsmen and fielders as well," Nabi told reporters at the WACA ground on Tuesday.

Afghanistan have provided one of the most compelling stories of this World Cup, with their thrilling one-wicket win over Scotland in Dunedin last time out one of the highlights of the competition so far.

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But the pace and bounce of the WACA pitch has troubled far more experienced overseas batsmen than are in the Afghanistan line-up and Australia have the fast bowlers to make the most of the conditions.

International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson warned last week that the four non-Test or Associate countries taking part in the tournament had yet to face their toughest assignments at the World Cup.

They don't come much harder than playing Australia in Perth but Nabi was heartened by the way his side had improved since their lone previous one-day international meeting.

Three years ago, Australia beat Afghanistan by 66 runs in Sharjah, a match where Nabi made 46 before being bowled by left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson. 

"We played against Australia in Sharjah. They scored 272 and we scored 206," said Nabi.

"It was a quite good experience against them. Our team now is better from that time."

Amid much debate about the ICC's plans to reduce the number of teams taking part at the 2019 World Cup in England to 10, Australia captain Michael Clarke insisted teams such as Afghanistan were worth their place.

And Nabi said his side were no longer star-struck when they came up against the world's best players.

"When you're first playing with the big teams and also with the big names, we got really excited," he said. "Now we're used to with them."

Afghanistan assistant coach Peter Anderson said Wednesday's match gave the tournament newcomers a chance to showcase their talent.

"We've come off a win against Scotland, so that's given the boys a lot of confidence," said Anderson.

"We know we're up against one of the best teams in the world and certainly arguably the best pace attack," added Anderson, who played Australian first-class cricket as a wicketkeeper for Queensland and South Australia.

"It's a shot for us, it's an opportunity for us to show the cricketing public of the world what talent we have in Afghanistan, and I know the boys will do themselves very proud."

Afghanistan's task is made all the harder by the fact Australia have still to secure a quarter-final place and come into this match on the back of a dramatic one-wicket Pool A defeat by fellow tournament co-hosts New Zealand in Auckland last weekend.

"They'll be up to redeem themselves from the New Zealand situation," said Anderson.

"Our goal is to get out there and bat 50 overs and make it very competitive. You never know."

'Cinderella' story

Afghanistan have been the 'Cinderella' story of this World Cup, with their maiden win - a thrilling one-wicket victory over Scotland in Dunedin last time out - one of the highlights of the competition so far.

Afghanistan still have a chance of gate-crashing the quarter-finals, standing just a point behind Australia after losing to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka before beating the Scots.

Yet were Afghanistan to win on Wednesday it would arguably be the greatest upset in the history of one-day international cricket.

For Australia, it is the classic 'no-win' situation in that anything less than a huge victory, never mind a defeat, will be regarded with dismay by their supporters.

Australia need points on the board after their 111-run opening win over England was followed by a no-result washout against Bangladesh and last weekend's thrilling one-wicket defeat by New Zealand in Auckland.

Australia captain Michael Clarke's lament about his side's inability to play swing bowling, after they slumped to 151 all out against a New Zealand attack featuring a five-wicket haul from left-arm paceman Trent Boult, was interpreted in some quarters as a criticism of coach Darren Lehmann's training methods.

Australia fast bowler Pat Cummins is set to miss Wednesday's match with a side strain, his place likely to go to Josh Hazlewood in an attack where Starc, who took six for 28 against New Zealand, is becoming increasingly influential.

Meanwhile all-rounder Shane Watson, under renewed scrutiny after giving his wicket away cheaply in Auckland, coud lose his place if James Faulkner regains full fitness.

Squads and officials:

Australia
(from): Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wkt), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty

Afghanistan: Mohammad Nabi (capt), Afsar Zazai (wkt), Usman Ghani, Aftab Alam, Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Zadran, Gulbadin Naib, Hamid Hasan, Javed Ahmadi, Najibullah Zadran, Nasir Jamal, Nawroz Mangal, Shapoor Zadran, Samiullah Shenwari, Shafiqullah Shafiq

Umpires:
Kumar Dharmasena (SRI), Michael Gough (ENG)
TV umpire: Billy Bowden (NZL)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)

Weather forecast: Sunny, with breeze. Maximum temperature 31 degrees Celsius.
 

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