T20 World Cup 2021: Pakistan look to continue winning streak against spin-heavy Afghanistan
Pakistan will take on Afghanistan in their third game of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 at Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday (today).
The Men-in-Green had a perfect start to the tournament as they crushed the arch-rivals India by 10 wickets and then defeated New Zealand by five wickets in their first two encounters of the mega event.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Nabi and Co thrashed Scotland by 130 runs in their opening match of the tournament on Monday.
The Green Shirts and Afghanistan have played only one T20I so far and that too back in December 2013 in Sharjah which resulted in a victory for the former.
The 2009 World Champions cannot take the emerging Asian team lightly as they have all the capability to beat any top side in the world especially in the shortest format of the game.
As the game is being played in Dubai at 7pm PST, the dew factor will come into play in the latter part of the game. Therefore, toss will play a key role in the outcome of the game as, according to record, teams batting first have won 59 T20Is in Dubai while the chasing team have won 44 times.
Keeping the stats in mind and the fact that it will be easier to bat in the second inning of the match, it is highly likely that the captain winning the toss will opt to bowl first.
Afghanistan inarguably have one of the best spin bowling attacks in the world, while Pakistan have some of the best batters of spin. Thus, it will be an interesting contest to witness.
Babar, Rizwan Opening pair
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan have been in phenomenal touch. In the high-pressure game against India, Babar and Rizwan put on the perfect show to chase down the target of 152 runs without losing a wicket, remaining unbeaten on 68 (52) and 79 (55), respectively.
In the second contest, the pair had a 28-run partnership, however, they could not go on to make it big. Both Rizwan and Babar are excellent players of spin and can keep the scoreboard ticking; therefore they can neutralise Afghanistan’s spin threat.
Spin warning: Imad, Hafeez
Imad Wasim can trouble Afghanistan as he can contain the flow of runs and put their batters under pressure during the powerplay. The left-arm slow bowler has taken 52 wickets in T20Is at an economy rate of 6.37 and he often bowls when the field restrictions are applied.
Afghanis like to go big early in the inning, if Imad or even Hafeez can bowl upfront in the inning and keep their batters silent for a few overs, the Afghan batters can play rash shots and give Pakistan easy wickets.
Hafeez has an impressive record against left-handed batters. He can be instrumental to tackle the few left-handed batters, including the hard-hitting opening batter Hazratullah Zazai and Najeebullah Zadran.
Solid pace attack
Haris Rauf was the pick of the bowlers for Pakistan in the second game. He sent four Kiwi batters back to the pavilion with his intelligent speed variations and accurate bowling.
Moreover, Shaheen Shah Afridi will definitely be a challenge for Afghanistan’s batting line-up with his in-swinging deliveries with the new ball intelligent bowling in the death overs.
Afridi and Rauf have been players of the match against India and New Zealand, respectively.
Despite having experienced batters in the middle-order, such as Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik and hard-hitting Asif Ali, oftentimes the batting line-up proves to be fragile. When Rizwan and Babar fail to score big early on in the game, there is always a fear of a collapse in the ranks.
Shahzad, Zazai Opening duo
Hazrat Ullah Zazai’s 44 and Mohammad Shahzad’s 22 got Afghanistan off to a flier by registering a 54-run opening partnership of just 35 balls in the opening match of their T20 World Cup campaign. Both of them have the fire-power which can help their team to post a big total on the board.
Brawny spin trio
Rashid Khan, Muhammad Nabi, and Mujeebur Rahman have 99, 72, and 30 T20I wickets against their names, respectively, and can easily trouble even the best batters of the world.
Since Rahman grabbed his career-best figures of 5/20 and Khan bagged 4/9 against Scotland, both of them have the skill to replicate a similar performance against the Shaheens in the upcoming contest. Pakistan batters have to be careful facing them as they have deceiving wrong’uns and are extremely accurate.
Other than that, Nabi who is currently the number 1 T20 all-rounder can also help his side with his batting and can bowl some handy overs in the middle of the inning.
The lack of practice can haunt Afghanistan as they last played a T20I series against Zimbabwe in March. Also, the team trained in Qatar without their senior pros.
When it comes to pacers, Afghanistan lack in that department as they do not have an experienced fast bowler in their arsenal which can be a problem for them in the World Cup.
The right-arm fast bowler, Hamid Hassan, and the right-arm medium-fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq have only played 22 and nine T20Is, respectively.
Other than the inexperienced fast bowling unit, the Afghanistan team might struggle due to their over-dependency on spinners if they bowl second as the dew factor might reduce their effectiveness if they bowl in the second inning.
Mohammad Nabi (c), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Hazratullah Zazai, Usman Ghani, Mohammad Shahzad, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Afghan, Gulbadin Naib, Najibullah Zadran, Karim Janat, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Hamid Hassan, Farid Ahmed Malik, Naveen ul Haq.
Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Hasan Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
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